Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Amtrak Sends Off its AEM-7s With Farewell Excursion between Washington and Philadelphia

June 24, 2016
Amtrak AEM-7 No. 951 leads a Regional train into Stamford, Conneticut, on July 13, 2000. Once ubiquitous on the Northeast Corridor, the AEM-7 have now been retired from revenue service.

Amtrak AEM-7 No. 951 leads a Regional train into Stamford, Conneticut, on July 13, 2000. Once ubiquitous on the Northeast Corridor, the AEM-7 have now been retired from revenue service.

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Commuter operators MARC and SEPTA still operate AEM-7 locomotives in the Northeast Corridor. SEPTA No. 2306 is seen in Trenton on May 14, 2016. (Photographs by Craig Sanders)

On Saturday, June 18, Amtrak operated an eight-hour Farewell to the AEM-7 (electric motor) excursion on the Northeast Corridor from Washington Union Station to Philadelphia and back to mark the end of the 35-year reign of what former Amtrak President Paul Reistrup once called, “One of the two locomotives that saved Amtrak.”

The diesel-electric F40PH was the other Amtrak-saving locomotive.

The 7,000 horsepower B-B electric motor (AEM-7 stands for Amtrak Electric Motor, 7,000 hp) is based on a Swedish design and were built by a partnership between Sweden’s ASEA (later becoming the “A” in successor company ABB) and the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors. The body shells were built by the Budd Company.

Delivered in 1981-1982, the AEM-7s replaced the venerable Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1s, and, eventually, their hoped-for replacement GE six-axle E60 heavy electrics.

The E60s turned out to be unsafe to operate above 100 mph.

A sell-out crowd of 476 enjoyed a brilliantly sunny (and hot) day that included a short segment of rare mileage while turning the train at Zoo interlocking in Philadelphia.

They also had a tour of Amtrak’s main electric locomotive shops in Wilmington, Delaware.

The train was led by a couple of the last remaining operable AEM-7s on the roster, Nos. 942 and 946, pulling a nine car train that included Amtrak business car No. 10001, the Beech Grove, carrying the markers.

Supposedly, Amtrak President Joe Boardman was aboard the Beech Grove, but was never seen by most of us and apparently never left the business car.

I didn’t catch the significance of lead unit 942, but 946 was the last unit of the 1981 first order of AEM-7s.

In 1988, Amtrak bought seven more AEM-7s (Nos. 947-953) to replace several that had been wrecked or suffered fire or other damage.

Class unit No. 900 was destroyed along with No. 903 in the Train No. 94 wreck at Chase, Maryland, in January 1987.

Neither of the two motors on the excursion had received any special repainting or body repair for the excursion and both looked very tired and worn.

We were told that Amtrak couldn’t justify to Congress fixing up two locomotives that were going to be retired after the trip.

Both motors did operate trouble-free all day and the air conditioning worked in every car.

With only six weeks of lead time from announcement to trip day, the trip sold out amazingly fast.

My understanding is that tickets were gone by June 9 for a trip that really didn’t cover rare mileage, didn’t consist of rare, historic passenger cars and didn’t include a spectacular photo run-by.

However, the Amfleet I coaches are now at least 40 years old.

The photo opportunity  was at the MARC Penn Line Halethorpe station located between Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Baltimore Penn Station. The train backed up about a quarter of a mile and slowly arrived back into the station, stopping exactly where it had let the passengers off.

Even on a Saturday, traffic on the Corridor prohibited a more spectacular display.

Indeed, at least three other Amtrak or MARC trains passed us while we were at Halethorpe and the next MARC train to Baltimore was right behind us when we left.

We then operated non-stop to Philadelphia 30th St. Station at up to the maximum allowable speed of 125 mph for an AEM-7.

The Amtrak official providing the running commentary was well-versed in the history and geography of the Corridor as well as the history of Amtrak’s electric locomotives.

The crew for the train consisted of four hourly employees, the engineer, two conductors, and a lead service attendant in the cafe.

Every car had a car host who were salaried Amtrak employees, mostly office or management employees who had volunteered to work the train on a day off.

They wore specially made “Farewell AEM-7 Excursion” and “staff” tee shirts.

There also was a heavy – at least to me – Amtrak Police presence in the stations and at Wilmington Shops. At one point one of their K-9s walked the train with its handler.

At Philadelphia, we stopped in the station for about 30 minutes to receive bag lunches of turkey subs from Jimmy John’s and possibly to wait for scheduled traffic to clear before we slowly made our way out to CP Zoo to turn the train and return to Washington.

In addition to lunch, every passenger also received a commemorative farewell AEM-7 pin.  After another brief stop at 30th St. Station to return the trays the bag lunches were delivered on, we operated non-stop to Wilmington shops, where the train backed into the facility for a scheduled 2.5-hour layover for tours and photographs of the shops and equipment.

At least 20 and probably more shop employees were present to guide the passengers around a carefully taped-off route through the shops.

Various work stations in the facility were marked and parts and components labeled so you could discern what they were and where they went on a locomotive or coach.

They also spotted locomotives around the facility for photography and brought in some pieces for the occasion.

For instance, both Amtrak’s electric and diesel veterans tribute units – Nos. 42 and 642 – were displayed together.

You could also photograph an Acela power car with its front cowling open, something the public rarely gets to see.

There were at least 10 or so AEM-7s scattered around the facility, including a dead line of at least seven next to our train.

Other notable units on display included the final new replacement motor for the AEM-7s, ACS-64 No. 670, Amtrak Phase III Heritage P42 unit No. 145, the Wilmington shop switcher (GE 80 Tonner No. 1100, which had been polished-up), and out-of-service HHP-8, No. 690.

Some cab doors were open for photography, but taped off to prevent anyone from entering them.

We had been told to start heading back to the train by 3:20 pm for a 3:50 p.m. departure.

Being a very hot day, everyone was back on a little early and the train departed at 3:45 p.m.

We then operated non-stop except for some very slow running for other traffic around New Carrollton, Maryland, on our way back to D.C.

On the return trip, Amtrak took the opportunity to sell-off now obsolete shelf-stock AEM-7 number boards and a few other components, such as a bell and a horn valve.

There were more than 100 number boards sold at $75 each and they sold them by lottery during the approximately 90-minute run back to Washington. Each winner was announced over the PA system.

Arrival back at Union Station was 25 minute early at 5:15 p.m., which I was grateful for because I had to drive straight back to Ohio for Father’s Day.

All in all, it was a successful day for all on board, as well as for Amtrak.  Perhaps we’ll see more such excursions in the future.

As for the fate of the AEM-7s, we were told that at least a couple were being kept serviceable for now.

I spotted No. 917 on a MARC consist laying over in Baltimore Penn Station. For the time being, MARC and Philadelphia’s SEPTA still operate a handful of AEM-7s.

So, it will be possible to see one running a little longer.

Article by Paul Woodring

Charger Locomotives Set for Testing

June 23, 2016

The first Charger passenger locomotives have been sent to Colorado for testing.

Two SC-44 diesels built by Siemens are being tested at TTCI’s Pueblo facility.

SiemensThe locomotives are part of an order of 32 being built under a $228 contract for use on Amtrak corridor routes in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, California and Washington state.

The Chargers can operate at up to 125 mph and come with a Cummins QSK95 prime mover rated at 4,400 horsepower.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is expected to take delivery of the first Chargers in December.

The units are being assembled in Sacramento, California.

Siemens is also building additional Chargers for use in Maryland and Florida. The Chargers are compliant with EPA Tier 4 emission standards.

FRA Sets Passenger Route Bidding Standards

June 23, 2016

The Federal Railroad Administration has announced a pilot program to allow independent contractors to bid on operating long-distance passenger trains.

The program was mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015, which called for bidding to be taken on up to three routes.

FRAThe law calls for the FRA to oversee a program “for selection of eligible petitioners in lieu of Amtrak to operate not more than three long-distance routes.”

Among the key elements of the proposal are:
• The winning bidder would assume the “right and obligation” to operate intercity passenger service over a specific route, and receive an operating funding not to exceed 90 percent of that provided to Amtrak for that route during the preceding year. The initial contract for each route would extend for four years, with extension subject to transportation department approval.
• Amtrak would be obligated to provide the new operator with access to its own reservation system, stations, and facilities.
• Employees of a new operator would be subject to laws and regulations governing current similar Amtrak employees, and winning bidders must provide hiring preference to displaced, qualified Amtrak workers.
• If an alternate operator fails to provide service, the transportation department, in collaboration with the Surface Transportation Board, would “take any necessary action consistent with the FAST Act to enforce the contract and to ensure the continued provision of service.”

Amtrak will be permitted to bid on continuing to operate certain trains. Bidders could range from Class I railroads to short lines to state-sponsored consortia.

In their proposals, the bidders must explain how they will provide the service (including their on-board services), provide an operating plan and financial plan, give details of agreements for using tracks they do not own and include “ancillary” activities not directly tied to operating the trains.

The U.S. secretary of transportation will review the bids and select the winning operators, a process that could take more than a year to complete.

Ann Arbor Won’t Release Report on Station Site

June 9, 2016

The Ann Arbor, Michigan, city council has narrowly defeated a motion to release more information about the city’s efforts to create a new Amtrak station.

The Ann Arbor News had filed a freedom of information request for copies of email messages between the city and the Federal Railroad Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation pertaining to the project.

Amtrak 4Although copies of the emails were released to the newspaper, they were heavily redacted.

A motion to release copies of the emails without the redactions was defeated in a 6-5 vote.

The council also rejected 6-5 a motion that an alternative analysis report be released.

City officials have said they are evaluating station sites on Depot Street and Fuller Road.

Council members voting against release said the city’s need to engage in frank communications outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

Ann Arbor city officials have said they won’t release the alternatives analysis report until a final draft is approved for release by the FRA.

Council members who voted to keep the report secret acknowledged that they don’t know all of what is in the email messages or the draft report.

Mayor Christopher Taylor said having the information subject to public review and input when it has yet to be approved by the FRA would be counterproductive.

Taylor said the city hasn’t decided on a station site because it has not heard conclusively from MDOT and the FRA where those agencies believe the depot should be situated.

“We are in the middle of a long and unpleasant process that no one is satisfied with. No one believes that this has gone well to this point,” he said.

“I think people at the table here are frustrated. People on the staff are frustrated, of course. But that’s where we are. We are not running the show.”

Ann Arbor officials have long favored building the station on city park land along Fuller Raod, but the FRA has favored redeveloping the former Michigan Central station, which is now a restaurant.

The current Amtrak station on Depot Street could also be redeveloped.

The Ann Arbor News said that in response to its FOI request, it received more than 400 pages of emails sent to and from Eli Cooper, the city’s transportation program manager, dating to August 2014.

Redacted from the emails provided to the newspaper were comments made by the FRA on the station site draft report.

Mayor Taylor said once the station analysis report is released there will be ample opportunity for public review and comment.

NS Derailment Sends Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited Detouring on CSX in Ohio, Indiana

June 8, 2016

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Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited were combined at Cleveland on Wednesday morning and sent on a detour move over CSX due to a derailment on Norfolk Southern in Indiana.

The eastbound Lake Shore Limited also detoured over CSX. The trains used the former Baltimore & Ohio Chicago-Pittsburgh mainline from northwest Indiana to Greenwich and the former Big Four between Greenwich and Cleveland.

The NS train involved was the 34E, which derailed at CP 437 in South Bend, Indiana.

A passengers aboard No. 48 said in an email message that No. 48 was near South Bend when it halted and an NS locomotive pulled the train backward to Hammond-Whiting, Indiana.

Other reports, though, indicated that No. 48 only made it as far east as Chesterton, Indiana.

The passenger aboard No. 48 said it passed the combined Nos. 29/49 at milepost 194 on the former B&O.

The eastbound Lake Shore departed Cleveland about 12 hours late.

Online reports indicated that Nos. 29/49 arrived in Fostoria at 7:50 a.m. and after a recrew departed at 8:15 a.m.

The combined train arrived at Chicago Union Station at 12:45 p.m. The equipment for No. 29 was placed ahead of that for No. 49.

Another report said that No. 48 passes North Baltimore at 2:38 p.m. and Fostoria at 2:50 p.m.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Amtrak expects to operate over the NS Chicago Line on Wednesday evening/Thursday morning.

The eastbound Capitol Limited was not affected by the derailment, which also caused some NS trains to find new routes.

Akron Railroad Club member Todd Dillon heard of the detour of No. 48 and photographed it passing through Wellington.

He wrote: “Amtrak’s bad luck was my gain, however. I went to Wellington on the former Big Four route from Cleveland.

“I discovered a new photo location now that the Ohio Route 58 underpass has opened. This has been under construction for several years. Train 48 came through Wellington at 4:27 p.m. almost 12 hours late.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

Waterloo Amtrak Station Dedication is June 24

June 7, 2016

A dedication ceremony has been set for June 24 in Waterloo, Indiana, to celebrate the opening of a former New York Central station as the new Amtrak stop.

A ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. and an open house between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
For years, Waterloo, which is the stop for nearby Fort Wayne, has been served with a bus stop shelter.

Amtrak 4Now, passengers will use the 132-year old NYC depot, which was moved to a new site last March.

A federal $1.82 million TIGER grant helped pay for a larger parking lot and sidewalks, new street lighting, landscaping, road resurfacing and curbs.

The renovated station will also have a kiosk to provide train arrival times and free Wi-Fi.

The station was restored in 2005 and became a community center, a use that will continue.

Waterloo is served by the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited and Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited.

In 2015, the Waterloo station handled 20030 passengers.

Greyhound Moving to Toledo CUT on June 15

June 7, 2016

Greyhound will begin using Toledo Central Union Terminal on June 15. It won’t be the first bus service at the facility, which is also served by four daily Amtrak trains.

Amtrak Thruway buGreyhoundses have been using the station for several years.

The Port Authority is undertaking a $500 million renovation to accommodate Greyhound at the now named Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza.

Amtrak’s Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington) and Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-New York) stop at the station, which opened in 1950.

Boardman: We Need New Diesels

June 4, 2016

Amtrak needs new diesel locomotives, but its president, Joseph Boardman, said the carrier doesn’t have the money to pay for them.

Amtrak logo “Yes, we need new diesels. We need to do something different,” Boardman said.

Boardman rejected paying for new locomotive with loans financed with “profits” from the Northeast Corridor as the ACS-64 electric locomotives were, but fully paid for as state procurement contracts for diesel locomotives are being financed.

The Amtrak head said Congress won’t appropriate the money to buy the locomotives “until the public understands that this nation’s infrastructure needs to be rebuilt.”

No Injuries in NS Pennsylvania Derailment

June 2, 2016

No injuries were reported after nine cars of a Norfolk Southern train derailed on the Lurgan Branch in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday.

NS logo 2The derailment blocked rail traffic for several hours.

Nine boxcars turned over on their sides on a curve. The train had originated at Enola Yard and was heading for Hagerstown, Maryland.

The line had reopened by 9:55 p.m. Media reports indicated that two Amtrak trains were delayed by the derailment.

The cause of the derailment is still under investigation.

Sampling the Railroad Action of Central Florida

May 30, 2016
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Amtrak’s Silver Star crossing the St Johns River at Sanford, Florida.

The southbound Autotrain at Sanford.

The southbound Autotrain at Sanford.

The Silver Meteor makes a station stop at Deland, Florida.

The Silver Meteor makes a station stop at Deland, Florida.

Florida East Coast train 101-29 at Daytona Beach, Florida.

Florida East Coast train 101-29 at Daytona Beach, Florida.

An FEC train crossing the Tomoka River at Ormand Beach, Florida.

An FEC train crossing the Tomoka River at Ormand Beach, Florida.

A Sunrail commuter train at the station in Debary, Florida.

A Sunrail commuter train at the station in Debary, Florida.

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Akron Railroad Club member Todd Dillon was in Florida this past weekend and sends along these images from the Sunshine State. He caught some Florida East Coast, Amtrak and Sun Rail commuter trains.

Photographs by Todd Dillon


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