Something Is Wrong with the Chargers!
Well, with some of them anyway.
A few years back, Amtrak placed an order with Siemens Mobility for 75 brand new, state-of-the-art diesel locomotives. They’re referred to by the manufacturer as ALC-42s and by Amtrak and the crews operating them as Chargers.
Unfortunately, there have been a few incidents when Charger locomotives on Amtrak long-distance trains have malfunctioned when traveling through extremely frigid conditions.
One of those incidents occurred near the end of a westbound Empire Builder’s route. It was in western Montana, obviously one of the coldest parts of the country and not a good spot for a train carrying a couple of hundred passengers to break down.
In response to my inquiry, I received a communication from Siemens on the subject of the Chargers. What follows is, in plain English, my summary of the most relevant part of their message:
Siemens is, of course, aware of these problems. They acknowledge that a very small number of the Charger locomotives have lost power in extremely low temperatures. They say that they have identified the problem and have developed both a software solution (which has been implemented) and a hardware solution (they’re working on that). They added that the problem has not occurred in Charger locomotives operating on shorter (and presumably warmer) Amtrak routes.
To end on a positive note: I do think the Chargers will prove worthy and evidently so does Amtrak: they have just ordered another fifty units.
And they are awfully good looking machines, aren’t they!