Out With the Old; In With the New.
Amtrak has announced that the venerable AEM-7 locomotives are being retired. Finally. These locomotives, which run by electricity drawn from the overhead wire called a catenary, can produce 7,000 horsepower and run at 125 miles-per-hour. They have been hauling Northeast Regional trains between Washington and New York or New Haven for more than 35 years. There were 54 of them built and altogether they have logged a total of more than 200 million miles.
I always loved the “look” of these brutes—nothing glamorous, strictly utilitarian in appearance—but you just knew that it was a workhorse that could haul passengers up and down the East Coast all day . . . every day . . . day after day.
The 70 new locomotives replacing the AEM-7s are being built by Siemens in their California factory. Their official designation is ACS-64, but they have been named “Cities Sprinter”. They’re rated at 8,400 horsepower and can haul as many as 18 cars up to a speed of 125 mph. There are a lot of technical and mechanical improvements over the AEM-7’s, but I won’t try to explain them all for a very good reason: they’re too technical for me.
Of course the whole question of new equipment for Amtrak is a hot-button issue, and has been for years now. Amtrak’s fleet of Superliner sleeping cars needs to be replaced—after all, some of those cars were built in the 1970s. There is plenty of demand to justify added frequencies on several routes, but the reason given for not doing so? Not enough equipment. And, of course, that’s because Amtrak can’t get enough money from Congress to buy more equipment.
NARP—that’s the National Association of Railroad Passengers—has been banging the drum for increased frequencies for some time now. The Sunset Limited (L.A. to New Orleans) runs three days a week and ought to be a daily train. And the Cardinal operates only three days a week between Chicago and New York—by way of Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Charlottesville—and that’s not enough either. In another month or so, NARP will be sending two 30-second radio spots to stations along the Cardinal’s route in an effort to generate support for making the Cardinal a daily train. As soon as the spots go out to the stations, I’ll post a link here.
And now a sales pitch: If you support NARP and these objectives, please consider becoming a member. Among other benefits, membership gets you a discount on Amtrak rail fares. Take a look at our web site for a lot more information. Thanks!