Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak locomotives’

Amtrak ALC-42 Chargers Now on 3 Routes

September 4, 2022

Amtrak’s new ALC-42 Charger locomotives are operating on three long-distance routes, but not all trains on those routes are yet pulled by the Siemens-built locomotives.

A report on the website of Railfan and Railroad magazine said Chargers have seen service in recent weeks pulling the Empire Builder (Chicago-Seattle/Portland), the City of New Orleans (Chicago-New Orleans) and the California Zephyr (Chicago-Emeryville, California).

Four ALC-42 locomotives were in the motive power of a recent eastbound California Zephyr, although just two of them were online with the other two new deliveries being towed.

Those new deliveries were later towed by the Chicago to Washington Capitol Limited.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told the magazine that it will be some time before all runs on the three aforementioned routes will be covered by ALC-42 units.

Magliari said 11 Chargers are in service in long-distance train service but not all 11 are necessarily operating at the same time.

At least 25 locomotives are needed to cover all runs of the three routes.

The ALC-42 Chargers debuted last spring on the Empire Builder. It was a troubled inauguration with technical issues hindering the positive train control system of the locomotives.

Those issues largely have since been worked out.

The Railfan and Railroad report said that often an ALC-42 is paired with a P42DC. The report said typically the Charger trails the P42 on westbound trips of the Empire Builder.

However, Chargers have worked as solo units on the City of New Orleans in recent weeks. Between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, on the City route, Amtrak crews are already familiar with similar locomotives, the SC-44 Chargers.

On the Empire Builder route, an ALC-42 often leads Train 7 from Spokane, Washington, to Seattle as a solo unit while a P42 pulls the Portland section.

Amtrak has agreed to purchase 125 ALC-42 units and all of them are expected to be in revenue service as replacements for P42 and P40 units by 2029.

Amtrak Finalizes Order for 25 More Chargers

June 24, 2022

Amtrak said on Thursday it expects to place in service by 2029 another 50 ALC-42 locomotives that it has ordered from Siemens Mobility.

The passenger carrier had said in February it planned to buy the additional Charger locomotives, but this week’s announcement indicated that terms of the purchase have now been completed.

A handful of the 4,200-horsepower locomotives have begun revenue service on the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder with additional Chargers slated to soon begin pulling the City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans.

In all Amtrak plans to buy 125 ALC-42 units to be used on long-distance routes and select corridor routes in the national network.

The Chargers are replacements for aging General Electric-built P42DC and P40 locomotives that began operating in the 1990s.

The ALC-42 locomotives are similar to SC-44 locomotives built by Siemens that now pull corridor trains in the Midwest, California and Pacific Northwest.

Amtrak’s first order of 75 ALC-42 locomotives was announced in 2018. That order plus the supplemental Chargers it now has on order are expected to cost $2 billion for the locomotives and a maintenance support program.

The new Chargers are Tier 4 compliant and will be built in Sacramento, California.

A Very Productive Sunday Morning

March 7, 2022

We were up early on Sunday for a pancake breakfast at the Willoughby Hills Community Center, a visit to Lake Metroparks Farmpark, grocery shopping at Heinen’s in Chardon, but also, of course, a great catch of a two-and-a-half late eastbound Lake Shore Limited with Midnight Blue P42DC No. 100 on the point and Downeaster F40 cab car No. 90213 in the consist. It was ideal weather of sunny and 62 degrees but very windy. We accomplished all this by noon.

It is not clear why the F40 cab car was on No. 48. It had gone west on Saturday morning on No. 49 only to turn around in Chicago and go back east that same night.

In the photographs above, No. 48 is shown passing the former New York Central passenger station in Painesville.

Article and Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Are We Really Going to Miss Amtrak P42s?

February 19, 2022

Amtrak P42DC No. 68 sits at the engine facility in Chicago on May 20, 2013.
The ALC-42 Charger is the next generation of Amtrak motive power. (Amtrak photo)

The February issue of Trains magazine had a list of things that railfans need to seek out in 2022 because they are endangered.

Among them are Amtrak P42DC locomotives. What? Are you serious?

Like many railroad photographers I can’t wait for the day when Amtrak trains are no longer being led by the ubiquitous P42s with their blue and silver Phase V livery.

It seems as though those locomotives have been around for about as long as Amtrak has even though they actually date to the 1990s. I have hundreds of photographs of the P42s in action, particularly those in the Phase V livery.

I am more than ready for a new look to Amtrak’s motive power.

Well, it’s true the P42 is endangered although far from being on the verge of being extinct.

Amtrak in 2019 placed an $850 million order with Siemens Mobility for 75 ALC-42 Charger locomotives and recently announced it would buy 25 more.

The plan is to use the Chargers to replace P42s and P40s in the national network. That means primarily long-distance trains but some corridor trains will also see ALC-42 Chargers on the point, including the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian.

The ALC-42 Chargers are similar to the SC-44 Chargers used to pull Midwest corridor trains. They have similar appearances but the specifications of the two models are different.

The Charger era at Amtrak got off to a less than auspicious start on Feb. 8. ALC-42 Nos. 301 and 302 were assigned to pull the Empire Builder out of Chicago that day but when No. 7 departed Chicago Union Station a P42DC was on the point and Nos. 301 and 302 were relegated to trailing unit duty. The explanation given was the 301 had technical issues with its positive train control system.

That hiccup notwithstanding, the Charger era is here although it will be more than a year and maybe two years before the ALC-42 becomes the dominant everyday motive power.

In the Trains article, author Chris Guss said it is time to document the P42 because although they may seem mundane now they will be appreciated later.

He wrote that he heard friends say decades ago that they wouldn’t photograph another train led by a pair of green Burlington Northern SD40-2s because they seemed to be on every train.

Guss said those statements made sense at the time, but now those BN “green machines” have given way to BNSF wide-cab “pumpkins” and some photographers – himself included – regret not documenting the green SD40-2s more often.

It’s a valid point. By the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, boxy-looking F40PH locomotives were the Amtrak standard and many photographers tired of them, too.

The EMD-built F40 gave way to the Genesis line of GE-built passenger locomotives. The first of those was a class of 40 P40 locomotives that began arriving in 1993.

The Genesis family expanded with P32DMAC units that were ordered to replace FL9s in New York. The P42DC came along in 1996.

Altogether Amtrak has had 207 P42s (roster numbers 1 to 207), 17 P32s (roster series 700), and 43 P40s (roster series 800). Those figures include units “retired” due to wreck damage or sidelined for other reasons.

All models in the Genesis family were introduced in the Phase III livery. That gave way to Phase IV starting in 1997, which lasted only a few years until Phase V came arrived in 1999. 

If I have any regrets, it is that I didn’t photograph more of the Phase III and Phase IV Genesis units.

The dominance of the Phase V era coincided with my interest in railroad photography intensifying, something that began to happen about 2004.

The F40 era didn’t vanish overnight and neither will the P42/P40 epoch. During the 1990s it was common to see a P40 working in tandem with an F40. Similar mixed motive power consists can be expected to occur with combinations of ACL-42 and P42/P40 units.

What you are unlikely to see, though, are ACL-42s mixed with SC-44s. The latter units are owned by state departments of transportation and were bought by those agencies for the express purpose of pulling corridor trains that they fund.

The Chargers in Midwest corridor service carry Illinois Department of Transportation reporting marks.

The Genesis era is likely to last through at least 2024 when Amtrak expects to take delivery of the last of the original 75 ALC-42s ordered in 2019.

Officials have not said how long it will be before the next 25 ALC-42’s begin to arrive.

The first ALC-42s have arrived wearing a Phase VI livery that is intended to be used by only a handful of the units. Amtrak plans to introduce this spring its Phase VII livery that will adorn the bulk of the Charger fleet.

If there is anything to be excited about with the changes coming in Amtrak’s motive power fleet it is the prospect of documenting locomotives in something other than Phase V.

It is not so much that I have grown bored with the P42 as such but I’m tired of the Phase V look.

The next two to three years will present opportunities for railfan photographers to document some interesting views including short-lived combinations. That will include combinations of P42s and ALC-42s with mixed liveries.

Amtrak also released last year a few P42s in one-off liveries including the Midnight Blue look for No. 100. No. 46 wears the Phase V scheme but with a gold 50th anniversary herald. No. 160 has the modified Phase III livery used to introduce the P32-8 locomotives in 1991.

Earlier this year P42 No. 203 received a tribute livery to Operation Lifesaver.

But perhaps the most sought after one-off livery is the “Day One” scheme applied to ALC-42 No. 301, which mimics a look applied to Penn Central E8A No. 4316 for ceremonies held on May 1, 1971, to trumpet the arrival of Amtrak.

Of course a handful of P42s are still out there in retro Phase I, Phase II, Phase III and Phase IV liveries that were brought back to celebrate Amtrak anniversaries.

Among the interesting factoids about the new Chargers is that the initials denote Amtrak Long-Distance Charger.

The Chargers have 4,200 horsepower capability, which is less than the SC-44, but the ALC-42 has larger fuel tanks and increased head-end power.

Amtrak and Siemens have touted how the Cummins QSK95 prime mover of the ACL-42, which is built in Seymour, Indiana, is Tier 4-compliant. The locomotives themselves are being assembled in Sacramento, California.

I’ve photographed the SC-44 Chargers numerous times and one characteristic I’ve noticed about them is how bright their headlights are.

They are brighter than any freight locomotive headlight I’ve seen coming down the tracks. I also have noticed the ditch lights of the SC-44 flash in a slower sequence than those of freight locomotives.

I’m looking forward to documenting the transition era between the Genesis and Charger eras but I’m still not sure I’m going to pine for the days when every Amtrak train had a Phase V livery P42 on the point.

Simply put, I have enough photographs of those locomotives and I don’t think I will miss them all that much once they’re gone.

Article by Craig Sanders

Charger Era Gets Shaky Start

February 9, 2022

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.

Next Charger Era Begins Today on Amtrak

February 8, 2022

The Charger era on Amtrak’s long-distance network begins today.

Railfan & Railroad magazine reported on its website that two Siemens-built ALC-42 locomotives are slated to lead the westbound Empire Builder out of Chicago Union Station, making this the first revenue run for new passenger units.

Amtrak plans to replace P42DC locomotives with the ALC-42 Chargers, which are similar in design to the SC-44 Chargers that have been in service on Amtrak’s Midwest corridor routes for more than three years.

The Railfan & Railroad report said the lead unit on Train 7 will be “Day 1” heritage locomotive 301. The training unit will be No. 302.

One of the units will lead the Seattle section while the other will lead the Portland section west of Spokane, Washington.

The article can be read at https://railfan.com/amtraks-new-alc-42s-to-enter-service-today/

Empire Builder to Get First Chargers

January 29, 2022

Amtrak plans to place its new ALC-42 Charger locomotives into regular revenue service on the Empire Builder in the coming months.

Railfan & Railroad magazine reported on its website that the Chargers are being moved to the route so that operating crews can become familiar with them.

Amtrak plans to eventually use the ALC-42 to replace the P42DC locomotives that have been national network mainstays since the 1990s.

The magazine said Amtrak has been placing a Charger in the various crew bases for the Empire Builder as part of the familiarity process.

Initially, the report said, Amtrak plans to par ALC-42 units with P42s in revenue service.

No date has been set for the first revenue service run of an ALC-42. Amtrak thus far has taken delivery of five ALC-42 units and expects to receive two more in February.

Eventually, Amtrak will operate 75 of the units, which are being assembled in Sacramento, California.

The report can be read at https://railfan.com/amtraks-new-chargers-will-debut-on-empire-builder/

Amtrak Creates OLS Tribute Locomotive

January 13, 2022

In conjunction with Operation Lifesaver, Amtrak has repainted P42DC No. 203 with a special livery to honor the 50th anniversary of OLS.

The locomotive features a black and yellow scheme that replicates a railroad crossing warning sign and bears the OLS slogan, “See Tracks? Think Train.”

The tribute unit was shown off this week during a ceremony in Washington. It was repainted by the Amtrak Beech Grove shops near Indianapolis.

No. 203 returned to revenue service following the ceremony at Washington Union Station.

OLS was founded in 1972 as a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting railroad safety and conducts national campaigns seeking to reduce railroad-related collisions, deaths, and injuries.

It has programs in 46 states and uses trained volunteers to provide safety presentations to law enforcement, first responders, school-aged children, school bus operators, truck drivers and student drivers among others.

No. 203 was assembled by General Electric in October 2001 and is expected to pull trains throughout Amtrak’s national network.

New ALC-42s Move East on Capitol Limited

January 11, 2022

Two new Siemens ALC-42 locomotives operated eastbound on the Capitol Limited today behind P42DC No. 188.

An online report indicated that the 305 and 304 were being delivered from the Siemens assembly plant in California. Both units wore the Phase VI livery.

Reportedly Amtrak is training crews in Chicago in the operation of the new ALC-42 locomotives, which are slated to begin replacing P42s in Amtrak’s national network this year although P42s will continue to work for a few more years as Amtrak takes delivery of its ALC-42 fleet.

Nos. 29 and 30 in recent days have been operating with four cars, a sleeping car, dining car and two coaches. During the holiday travel season the Capitol Limited had been assigned an additional sleeping car.

In an unrelated development, Amtrak continued to have equipment and weather-related issues last weekend.

The eastbound Cardinal departed Chicago on Saturday night more than seven hours late due to what Amtrak described on its Twitter feed as equipment and mechanical issues.

Also running late in recent days have been the California Zephyr and Empire Builder.

Trains magazine reported on its website that a westbound Zephyr last weekend was delayed by more than seven hours after hitting a track obstruction east of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

The Empire Builder continued to be plagued by weather woes with the train that departed Chicago last Friday canceled in Minot, North Dakota, due to weather-related operating conditions.

The westbound Builder from Chicago was canceled on Saturday and Sunday while its eastbound counterpart was canceled from Seattle and Portland on Sunday and Monday.

Saturday’s eastbound Empire Builder had originated in Spokane, Washington, rather than Seattle.

Racing North Near Leverett

December 22, 2021

To appreciate this image it probably helps if you grew up in a place with a lot of flat farmland.

Shown is Amtrak’s City of New Orleans racing northbound toward Chicago near Leverett, Illinois, shortly after sunrise on a Sunday morning.

No. 58 was more than an hour behind schedule leaving Champaign. The train is on the Chicago Subdivision of Canadian National, which at one time was the mainline of the Illinois Central between Chicago and New Orleans.

As for what I, an east central Illinois native, see in this photograph, I see familiarity. There are no striking physical features such as mountains and valleys, just farmland and in the distance traces of urbanization in Champaign-Urbana. Above the Superliner cars you also can see the top of the grain elevator at Leverett.

This is all familiar to me and in a way comforting.

I would not have been able to get this image had No. 58 been on time as it would have been dark as it passed through here. It was a nice way to get a day of railfanning off to a good start.

If you look closely, you will see there is frost on the crossties of the CN track. Temperatures were in the 20 when I made this photograph on a winter morning.

I later checked and determined No. 58 halted at Chicago Union Station 58 minutes late.