Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak P42DC locomotives’

Been More Than a Decade Now

June 8, 2022

I recently ran across this image of the Amtrak 40th anniversary exhibit train in Jackson, Michigan. The exhibit train contained numerous artifacts regarding Amtrak history in those three baggage cars.

The Amfleet food service car contained a gift shop while the sleeping car on the rear provided quarters for the traveling exhibit train staff.

The image was made in October 2011. That was more than 10 years ago. Last year when Amtrak marked its 50th anniversary, it did not send an exhibit train out to tour the country.

Aside from a few historic photographs posted on its website and giving some locomotives a 50th anniversary herald Amtrak did little to celebrate its half century of service.

The lingering COVID-19 pandemic no doubt had something to do with that. So did Amtrak’s aversion to spending money on something management viewed as a “frill” during a time when the passenger carrier continued to struggle with less revenue due to pandemic-induced ridership losses.

On the point of the exhibit train is an F40 non-powered control unit painted in the Phase III livery. The same retro look has been applied to the trailing P42DC, which provided motive power and head-end power to the train.

This image also is noteworthy for having been scanned from a slide that came from one of the last rolls of slide film that I ever exposed. Three months earlier I had purchased a digital single lens reflex camera and I seldom made photographs with slide film after that.

On this day I had both cameras although most of the images I made were created with the digital camera. I finished off a roll of slide film with my other camera, which left just one roll of slide film left in my camera bag.

Later this summer will be the 10th anniversary of my having exposed my last frame of slide film. That image was of Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 in Bucyrus pulling a Norfolk Southern employee appreciation special.

Those NS employee specials, like the Amtrak exhibit train, are both now things of the past and nothing similar has come along to take their place.

Photograph and Article by Craig Sanders

Opening the 2022 Photo Season

March 27, 2022

Whether it is a sports team, a theater company, or a musical ensemble, there is something special about opening day or opening night. The players or performers have been putting in hours of practice and planning as they pointed toward the moment when the season, run or concert series would begin.

There is much anticipation and hope for an auspicious start that will herald great things to come.

And so it was as I made my way to east central Illinois back on Feb. 20 for my first railfan photography outing of the year.

That day proved to be far from a promising beginning. Shown above is the only train I wound up photographing.

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki passes the former Illinois Central station in Arcola, Illinois. There is still some snow lingering from a previous storm and Train 390 was more than a half hour late. On the point was a P42DC rather than the usual SC-44.

I would spend the rest of the day hanging out in Tuscola but train traffic was minimal and I ended up going home feeling disappointed. It was just one of those days.

Opening day is never the only game or performance of a season and this won’t be my only outing of this year. More and better days lie ahead. I’m looking forward to them because you never know what you will see, what you will find.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

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

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.

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.

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.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

An Amtrak Two for Tuesday

June 1, 2021

Amtrak’s Cardinal is used to ferry equipment to and from the Beech Grove shops in Indianapolis. Typically, equipment goes north on Monday and south on Saturday.

The usual practice is to add the equipment bound for Chicago to the front of the train at Indianapolis Union Station, which has the effect of creating two trains in one.

Monday’s westbound No. 51 has this double look as seen in the images above. The ferry section added in Indy is on the front of the train followed by the passenger section.

Note also that the ferry section has two P42DC locomotives and two Viewliner baggage cars, which is in keeping with the theme of this post of two for Tuesday. The ferry section also includes a lone Superliner coach.

The passenger section has its customary consist of three Amfleet II coaches, an Amfleet food service car, a Viewliner sleeping car and a Viewliner baggage-dorm.

The Cardinal is shown passing through Brownsburg, Indiana, on the CSX Crawfordsville Subdivision.

2 For Amtrak’s 50th Anniversary

May 3, 2021

I wanted to get out and photograph Amtrak on its 50th anniversary day last Saturday. I began my quest by setting next to the CSX Monon Subdivision south of Linden, Indiana, to capture the westbound Cardinal.

No. 51 was right on the money about 10 minutes past 5, having made a station stop, in Crawfordsville about 12 minutes earlier. It was about a half-hour after sunrise.

Next I motored over to east central Illinois to get the northbound Saluki, a corridor train funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation that originates in Carbondale and travels to Chicago.

No. 390 is shown above taking a signal at Humboldt, Illinois. It, too, was running on time.

None of the equipment seen in these photographs existed in 1971 and most of it had not been created yet as a concept.

The Amfleet coaches and food service car of the Cardinal come closest because Amfleet equipment was based on the design of the Budd Metroliners of the 1960s. Superliner equipment was inspired by the Hi-Level cars of the Santa Fe.

In 1971 EMD E and F units with a handful of passenger equipped geeps, U boats and SDs were the common motive power. It all wore the markings and liveries of its owners.

The Saluki does not normally operate with Superliner equipment, but has since Amtrak reduced the frequency of most long-distance trains last year to tri-weekly.

Starting May 24 Amtrak plans to begin to restore daily service to most long-distance trains — the Cardinal and Sunset Limited are exceptions — so the Superliners now on the Saluki probably will be replaced with Horizon and Amfleet equipment.

But not for long as Amtrak has begun taking delivery of and testing the new Siemens Venture cars and they are expected to begin revenue service later this year.

The long distance trains are also slated to begin receiving Charger locomotives similar to the SC-44 seen above pullking the Saluki albeit with a difference livery.

With Amtrak things are always changing even if it doesn’t always appear that way at first glance.

Going Away

December 12, 2019

Going away images of Amtrak motive power are not among my favorites to make, but I made an exception on this day largely because of the time of day when I was here.

It is just after 8 a.m. in Waterloo, Indiana, and a late westbound Capitol Limited is pulling into the station.

The sun hasn’t been up all that long so the traditional coming photograph would be a challenge due to strong back lighting.

I did make some images of No. 20 coming toward me, then swung around and got the going away shot of the head end.

It does have the quality of giving a sense of direction and showing where the train is heading.

The warm morning light is a nice attribute, too.

Amtrak Seeking Locomotive Proposals

June 2, 2018

Amtrak issued this week a request for proposal for new or rebuilt diesel locomotives.

In a news release, Amtrak said it is looking to acquire 50 to 75 next generation locomotives that have the latest safety features, have more horsepower, and boast the lowest emissions possible.

The RFP, which is posted on the Amtrak website, calls for vendors to rebuild the passenger carrier’s existing P42DC locomotives with AC propulsion or to provide new locomotives built with alternative power and structure options.

Amtrak plans to use the locomotives on its long-distance trains and on some state-funded routes.

The winning vendor will receive a contract with options to rebuild or acquire additional units.

A pre-proposal conference for vendors will be held on June 20 in Philadelphia with proposals due by Aug. 23.

“Our diesel locomotive fleet is nearing the end of life expectancy and we must act now to modernize Amtrak for the future,” Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said in a statement. “We expect that any new, state-of-the art locomotive will offer improved reliability, a smoother ride, improved safety features and make major contributions towards lowering emissions and we’ll also consider how rebuilding options of the current fleet could achieve these goals.”