Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak locomotives’

Amtrak to Add PTC to Locomotives

September 2, 2017

Amtrak will provide 310 locomotives with a positive train control system that will be installed by Rockwell Collins.

In a news release, Amtrak said the system will be operational by the Dec. 31, 2018, federal deadline set in the amended Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

The passenger carriers plans to use the ARINC RailwayNet℠ service, a hosted network, messaging and application platform designed to meet PTC requirements, which will allow Amtrak locomotives to operate with the PTC systems of its 19 host railroads.

Amtrak said it is well along on PTC implementation, having activated its advanced civil speed enforcement system in the Northeast Corridor and Keystone Corridor.

An incremental train control system, another version of PTC, is in use on 97 miles of track Amtrak owns in Michigan and Indiana on the Chicago-Detroit corridor.

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Chargers to Sport Amtrak Midwest Logo

August 31, 2017

The new Charger locomotives that are entering service on Amtrak’s Midwest corridor routes will sport an Amtrak Midwest logo.

Amtrak showed off the new locomotives earlier this week at a press conference in Chicago.

The passenger carrier in a news release touted the SC-44 locomotives built by Siemens for their enhanced smoothness, speed capability and safety features.

The locomotives are owned by the state departments of transportation that pay for the corridor trains that will use the new units.

Thirty-three Chargers will be based in Chicago to serve trains that carried more than 2.6 million Amtrak passengers last year.

Chargers will also be assigned to the Missouri River Runner trains between St. Louis and Kansas City.

The locomotives were built in Sacramento, California, and are being promoted for their lower maintenance costs, reduced fuel consumption and quieter operation.

The SC-44 is powered by a Midwest-made 4,400 horsepower Cummins QSK95 diesel engine.

The locomotives can operate at speeds up to 125 mph, with faster acceleration and braking for better on-time reliability.

They are the first higher-speed passenger locomotives to meet the EPA Tier 4 standards, meaning a 90 percent reduction in emissions and a reduction in fuel consumption of up to 16 percent compared to the previous locomotives.

The locomotives were purchased with $216.5 million in federal funds.

Amtrak to Put More Chargers into Service

August 29, 2017

Amtrak will soon place into service its new Charger locomotives on three other Midwest corridor routes, including one serving Michigan.

The Siemens-built AC-44 locomotives have already entered revenue service on the Hiawatha Service route between Chicago and Milwaukee.

Amtrak officials said the units are expected to enter service this week on Chicago-Quincy, Illinois, trains.

In the near future, will be assigned to Chicago-Carbondale, Illlinois, service and to the Pere Marquette to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The new locomotives are being withheld from Chicago-St. Louis trains, and the Blue Water and Wolverine Service routes pending testing of Wabtec’s I-ETMS positive train control system and the two versions of Incremental Train Control installed on the routes of those trains.

“These are new installations, it’s a different locomotive, and the systems have to be merged and integrated with the Siemens software, so we will continue to run 110-mph between Porter and Kalamazoo with the existing P42 locomotives until testing is completed,” said Tim Hoeffner, director of Michigan’s rail office.

A similar situation exists in Illinois on Union Pacific track in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor. A 110-mph section between Dwight and Pontiac is reverting to 79 mph until the new system is in place.

The maximum speed of Lincoln Service trains will increase to 90 mph after track and signal work is completed.

Once the Federal Railroad Administration certifies that the positive train control system on the route is reliable, then top speeds will rise to 110 mph.

Amtrak superintendent of locomotives Mike Yates said that 12 of the 33 Chargers that were ordered are now on Amtrak property and 10 are ready to be put into revenue service.

Warwick Moment Not Likely to be Repeated on Sunday

July 29, 2017

Here is a Warwick memory that won’t be repeated for Sunday’s picnic. A late-running eastbound Amtrak train lit by the early morning sun approaches Warwick Tower on July 1, 2004. The train is the Chicago-New York Three Rivers, which was discontinued in March 2005. Under ordinary circumstances, Nos. 40 and 41 were scheduled to pass through Warwick during darkness hours.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

 

Amtrak Where You Don’t Normally See It

July 3, 2017

It isn’t every day that you an Amtrak train in Bellevue. The National passenger carrier has never run through here in scheduled service, only on detour moves.

Amtrak No. 49 takes the Toledo District in the mini plant in Bellevue on its circuitous detour

Crossing the Portage River in Oak Harbor.

On Sunday (July 2) Norfolk Southern was changing out the diamonds at Sandusky and Vickers (Toledo). As a result Amtrak 49, the westbound Lake Shore Limited, needed to detour through Bellevue.

Normally this would not have been an issue; however, it was running about 5 1/2 hours late when it reached Cleveland. The other Amtrak trains did not need to detour as they were on time.

No. 49 took the Sandusky district to Bellevue and the Toledo district west. It would have an interesting route to get to Toledo going past Ironville tower and the Wheeling Belt before regaining the Chicago Line. I didn’t chase the train that far however I was able to get a few photos at Bellevue and Oak Harbor Ohio.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

Here Comes Amtrak

June 20, 2017

This time I didn’t miss. More than a week ago I told the story of how I was railfanning with fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler in Willoughby when a very late Amtrak No. 48 came charging through town.

We had no inkling the eastbound Lake Shore Limited had yet to come through because we had not bothered to check to see if it had.

A week or so later I decided to make amends for that during a planned trip to North East, Pennsylvania.

I left home to get to Bort Road in plenty of time to catch Amtrak, which was running about 45 or so minutes late.

Here it is passing through the vineyard country near the shore of Lake Erie along the Pennsylvania-New York border.

Railfan Incompetence 101

June 7, 2017

The phrase that serves as the headline for this article was uttered by fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler.

Shown is Amtrak train No. 48 crossing Erie Street in Willoughby, Ohio. This isn’t the photo angle that I would have preferred, only the one that was available.

I didn’t know that the Lake Shore Limited was coming and that is where the incompetence comes into play. I could have known that fact had I sought out that information.

And yet three days after I made this image I recognized that while it is not a great image, it tells three stories, two of which are not obvious by looking at it. The third will be apparent only to those who like to look beyond the obvious.

It took an unexpected piece of wisdom from a man I’ve met just once for me to see more than one story and one meaning of this image.

* * * * *

Story 1 is a familiar one to many photographers. Peter and I had plans to railfan in Lake County with a list of objectives we wanted to achieve. At the top of the list was photographing an eastbound Norfolk Southern train passing the Willoughby Coal & Supply Company building.

I had heard a train call a signal on the NS radio frequency and we were standing on the sidewalk of the Erie Street crossing of the NS tracks waiting for that train to arrive.

I didn’t hear enough of the radio transmission to get the train’s location or symbol. I didn’t know if it was an eastbound or westbound.

Peter thought he heard a locomotive horn to the west, but after several minutes of waiting and no train showing up, he concluded he had heard traffic noise.

We waited several more minutes and he heard another sound that he was sure was a locomotive horn.

It was. It belonged to an Amtrak P42DC that Peter spotted shortly before it reached Erie Street.

“It’s Amtrak,” he proclaimed. He later said that as soon as he said that his heart sank. My morale plummeted. We had blown an opportunity and we knew it. All we could do was watch it from three blocks away.

I had thought about Amtrak earlier in the day, but didn’t give it a second thought.

Our outing was to begin 6:45 a.m. at the Golden Gate shopping plaza in Mayfield Heights, a place where Peter and I often rendezvous for photograph outings. I knew that before we even met up that Amtrak train 48 would be out of Cleveland already.

It is scheduled to depart at 5:50 a.m. Of the four Amtrak trains that serve Cleveland, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited is the one most likely to be running on time or almost on time.

It never occurred to either of us to call Amtrak Julie or check the Amtrak website to verify that No. 48 had already departed. That was incompetence on our part.

Had we checked the status of Amtrak 48, we could have been in position to photograph the train coming around a slight curve in really good morning light.

Had we contacted Amtrak we would have learned that No. 48 had left Cleveland an hour and 28 minutes late.

Opportunities to get that Willoughby curve image don’t come along every day for either of us. We had fumbled away a good opportunity and that hurt.

I had been so focused on getting an NS train that I had locked out the CSX radio frequency on  my scanner. Had I not done that I might have heard No. 48 calling signals and we could have gotten into position in time.

As for that NS train I had heard on the radio, it turned out to be westbound train No. 149. But we stayed with the location and got an eastbound around 9:30 a.m.

Although Peter and I achieved our objective of catching an eastbound train at the Willoughby Coal & Supply building, we struck out on all of our other objectives for the day, although that was a matter of fate and lack of knowledge rather than incompetence.

As we drove home that afternoon, we agreed that it had been, overall, a disappointing photography outing with the missed Amtrak photo op casting a pall over the day.

There is a saying that chance favors the prepared mind. We had not done as much preparation as we could have.

* * * * *

Story No. 2  unfolded on the morning of the next day. During breakfast I was reading a column published in the food section of The Plain Dealer by the former restaurant critic of the newspaper, Joe Crea.

I had started reading the column the night before, but didn’t finish it because I was tired.

I have met Crea once, but I doubt he remembers me. Ironically, I met him in a restaurant. My wife knew him because she works as a copy editor for the Plain Dealer.

The column I was reading focused primarily on Crea’s experience of the past year fighting cancer.

He had been diagnosed with cancer more than a year earlier and wrote about how his life had become a series of hospital stays, treatments, consultations with doctors, successes and setbacks.

His doctor is cautiously optimistic that he has been “cured” but that is not a certainty.

There was something about Crea’s column that resonated with me even though I’ve read similar thoughts expressed by other authors.

I’m old enough to know that my being in the same position that Crea is in is not as hypothetical as it seemed even a few years ago.

Like so many people diagnosed with cancer, Crea said he has learned to appreciate that every day is a gift, even a bad day.

As I thought about that, my thoughts immediately went to the “bad day” I had just had and the missed Amtrak photo op.

Maybe it hadn’t been so bad. Sure, it had been filled with disappointments, but it had been another day of living, another day of photography, another day of watching trains go by. Our passion for railroads had prompted Peter and I to get out trackside.

Some day there won’t be any more opportunities to go trackside. Some day my ability to get out and watch a train, even if from a distance of three blocks, may be greatly hindered and I’ll long for the days when I had easy mobility.

I had seen an Amtrak train, even if I hadn’t made the best photograph of it. I can’t remember the last time that I saw Amtrak live. It probably was last year, maybe last September.

* * * * *

I’m a big fan of the concept of framing. It is a practice that all of us do, even if we are not aware of it as we do it or even know the name of the behavior.

I’ve taught the concept in my public relations classes yet many students seem to have a hard time grasping it even though they’ve done it often.

A frame is a way of calling attention to a particular aspect of something, a way of drawing attention to one thing and away from something else. It is the essence of composition in photography.

On what do you focus and what meaning do you seek to make of it?

Joe Crea was framing when he wrote in his column that when you have a condition that could take your life away sooner rather than later even a bad day is a gift

I had been framing the meaning of my Amtrak down-the-street-image from a technical perspective. The meaning I had given to it was “missed opportunity due to incompetence.”

Framed in that manner, it is an average to mediocre image. It has a lot of clutter. The train is enveloped in shadows. There is nothing dramatic that will grab the viewer’s attention and lead him/her to conclude that he/she has seen something special.

It is another hum-drum image that many serious photographers would either have never made or would have deleted from their memory card.

That is one way to frame what this image means, but it is not the only way.

I am, at heart, a story teller. Even an average or mediocre photograph can have a story to tell and sometimes those stories are more compelling than the image might appear to be at a casual glance.

The fact that this photograph is so average is the story it has to tell.

Serious photographers think of trains and locomotives in much the same way that portrait photographers think of people.

They want the object of their desire to be posed in the most ideal manner. For a photographer that means good light and composition.

The ideal way to have photographed this train would have been a wedge view that took advantage of the morning sunlight and the train coming around a curve, thus exposing more of the train.

That is how a photographer sees Amtrak, but it is not the manner in which most people experience Amtrak.

Most people see Amtrak in the manner that I did in this photograph. It is a happenstance occurrence most likely to occur at a grade crossing or while approaching a grade crossing.

It will be a spontaneous moment surrounded by the clutter of the street that we see and hardly pay attention to during our everyday lives.

Even as a down-the-street-shot it would have been better had I stepped out into the street and been able to compose the image to avoid that street sign on the left side. But I didn’t do that because it might not have been safe.

I also didn’t have time to evaluate the setting. All I could do was react.

As it is, this image has already been cropped to eliminate a utility pole on the far left edge of the original image.

We can’t plan every moment of our days. So much of life is about spontaneity and living in and enjoying the unexpected small moments. Life is not always portrait quality and big moments.

The point of this photograph is to show one of those moments. In his column, Crea urged his readers not just to enjoy those moments but to understand that what might seem like a disappointment or setback might be something else.

It might be one of those moments that makes like worth living.

Amtrak Tests Charger Locomotive in Midwest

April 20, 2017

One of the new SC-44 Charger locomotives that will be assigned to Midwest Corridor trains was tested between Chicago and Milwaukee on Wednesday.

No. 4611 was on the point for test train 941 from Chicago to Milwaukee, running ahead of regularly scheduled Hiawatha Service No. 329.

It was the first test of a Charger locomotive in the Midwest. Testing has been conducted previously on the east and west coasts.

Two Chargers, Nos. 4611 and 4604 arrived in Chicago late last month.

Siemens built the Chargers at a factory in California as part of an order placed by the departments of transportation of Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri, Washington and Maryland. The order was for 69 locomotives of which Illinois purchased 33.

Most of the Chargers in the Midwest are expected to operate on corridor routes radiating from Chicago.

Further tests of the Chargers are expected to be performed on other Midwest routes.

Charger Locomotives Undergoing Operations Testing

February 16, 2017

The new Charger locomotives to be used by Amtrak corridor trains are undergoing national certification testing in Washington State.

Amtrak logoThe Washington Department of Transportation said the Siemens SC-44 units are being tested on Cascade service through the end of this month.

The Chargers are expected to begin regular service later this year pulling trains in Washington, California, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri.

The departments of transportation of those states collaborated to develop the 4,400 horsepower locomotives, which are being assembled in Sacramento, California.

P42DC Named for ex-Amtrak Head Boardman

September 29, 2016

Amtrak has named P42DC No. 42 after its former president, Joseph Boardman.

Amtrak logoPainted in a livery honoring the nation’s veterans, No. 42 will carry an inscription below its cab reading: “Amtrak Honors: Joseph H. Boardman, President and CEO 2008-2016, US Air Force Vietnam Veteran.”

The locomotive was officially named for Boardman earlier this week during a ceremony held at Washington Union Station that was attended by more than 100 invited guests, including Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz; BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Matt Rose; Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Sarah Feinberg; former FRA boss Joe Szabo; union officials; and dozens of Amtrak employees and managers.

Also attending and speaking were U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Amtrak Board of Directors Chairman Tony Coscia and board member Tom Carper, U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, and Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ed Hamberger.

Current Amtrak President and CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman was absent because he was on a previously-planned family vacation.