Siemens has released the first three in a series of 70 new electric locomotives ordered for Amtrak's NorthEast Corridor. These electrics are to replace the relatively new, but unreliable HHP-8 electric locomotives and the now long in the tooth AEM-7s.
The Bombardier built HHP-8s have proved to be a disaster for Amtrak, necessitating the units retirement after only 15 years in service. Various reports claim that the HHP-8s were out of service for unscheduled maintenance roughly every 12 days.
In contrast the AEM-7s have been a model of reliability for over 30 years. Based on the Swedish RC series of electric locomotives, Amtrak received it's first unit in 1979.
Watch an Amtrak AEM-7 blow through Seabrooke Station (Video by Ralf Meier):
However they are underpowered for the ever longer and heavier trains required for the increasing traffic load on the NorthEast Corridor. Thus the order for 70 new locomotives.
Siemens US has now released the first three of the new "City Sprinters". Two will be going to the railroad test track in Pueblo, Colorado. One will be tested in regular service on the NorthEast Corridor. It is expected that the remaining locomotives will begin to deliver by the end of 2013.
The "City Sprinter", or ACS-64 in Amtrak parlance, is based on the proven Siemens "Eurosprinter" and "Vectron" line of locomotives.
The Amtrak locomotive design will, of course, have been modified for the US market. The knuckle couplers being the most obvious of the modifications. Not so obvious is the improved crashworthyness required by the FRA and the slightly higher axle load of about 24 tons. The locos are three system voltage capable, weigh about 97 tons and have a top design speed of 135 mph. Tractive effort is given as 320 kilo Newton or about 72000 pounds in US railroad speak, enough to get 18 of those horrible Amfleet coaches (I hate those tin cans) to 125 mph in under eight minutes.
So far the European railroads have been happy with their "Eurosprinter" derived locomotives. Let's hope Amtrak is as lucky with their new locomotives and let's also hope that they will buy some better passenger coaches.