MORE ON AMTRAK #1

Beginning in 1975, Amtrak began replacing its diesel fleet and re-designing its passenger cars to operate with head-end electrical power provided by an on-board generator (the early days also saw some dedicated "generator cars" for a brief time). The lions share of the locomotive work went to EMD, who provided the famous "F40." The earlier versions had steam generators in them, but by the end of the series, the new units were built with a HEP generator. Eventually most of the older F40's were also converted. GE produced a competitive unit in smaller numbers, the P30. Combined these diesels are often referred two as second generation. They are characterized by red white and blue horizontal stripes.

Amazingly, Amtrak survided until the late 1980's, and once again it became clear that the second-generation EMD's would need to be replaced. Politics once again entered the picture, and Amtrak was forced to abandon many more routes in exchange for one-time appropriations for new locomotives. Enter GE. First, modified "dash-8" locomotives were purchased, arriving in 1991 in "pepsi-can" scheme. General Electric won the bid, with its Genesis 4200 horsepower design. One new GE could in theory replace two old EMD's. GE's P40's and P42's comprise Amtraks third generation of diesel locomotives.

The road number 1 at Amtrak was originally assigned to a switcher at New Orleans. Proud to wear it again in 1996 was GE serial number 49320. It showed an August 1996 build date and served faithfully until it had a 2017 run-in with a truck-mounted snowplow at Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Over its career, it led both special AAPRCO private car trains, and the American Orient Express cruise train. In 2005 it was one of the locomotives that operated an evacuation train for citizens fleeing Hurricane Katrina.

Over the years, we have seen visual changes to the fleet of Genesis locomotives working at Amtrak. Most obvious, headlight lenes were removed, and later noses modified from steel to bolt-on composite panels. Eventually the old rectangular headlight box gave way to a scoop design for the headlight. As engines were damaged or overhauled, builder stickers were lost, and when eventually Amtrak got around to replacing them, only the engineer side received one. An outward looking camera was added to the fireman side windshield after 2010, and much more electronic gear has been added. After 2020, positive train control equipment became manditory.

In our first group, #1-9 road numbers, we note that all wore the three basic paint schemes. One can follow the appearance evolution in photos, particularly at rrpicturearchives.net, which will help identify the age of a particular photo or video view. One problem with this website is that an older photo might turn up scanned with a much later posting date, so it may not be totally dependable in that regard. But it is an excellent resource for those interested in these GE's and their history.

Engine #1 wore its circa 1993 livery until the summer of 2000. Typically P42's receive an overhaul and/or paint refresh at around three year intervals, although it can be sooner or later depending upon the number of hours of use. Wreck damage may cause it to happen prematurely as well. After 1998, Amtrak started repainting its diesels in a "northeast direct" livery, and that seems to have been more of a marketing inspired change for engines #1-28, as some were taken sooner than one might have expected. This paint scheme was initially applied only to locomotives #101-111, which had "Northeast Corridor" stenciled on them as well. It expanded to include some of the western fleet only until the year 2000, at which time a new "millenium" bluenose paint scheme was introduced. Engine #1 evidently received that repaint in the summer of 2003. It was the "low skirt" variant, which had by then become the system standard for P42s.

THE LONGMEADOW INCIDENT

In the northeast, Amtrak occasionally has used passenger locomotives for maintenance of way work, which was the fate of #1 in March 2017. Operating out of the New Haven base and Springfield, it was being used to clear snow from the Springfield Line during a winter storm. There were no passengers on board. A Longmeadow city-owned truck was doing the same thing, when it backed into the Birnie Road crossing around 4 PM on March 14, during a winter storm. The crossing is just north of the Connecticut state line, and west of Interstate Highway 91.

The owner of the road is generally responsible for safety improvements, but in the case of Birnie Road, there seems to have been some confusion about whether it was an active rail crossing and/or under whose ownership. Originally PennCentral and Conrail before Amtrak, the crossing had been noted as closed in Federal Railroad Administration records between 1980 and 2017. As early as 1980, there are records of the town board discussing making improvements, but no action was taken. Obviously, the city must have considered it their property, as they were maintaining it.

That narrow suburban road crossing, at the time, was not protected by gates or lights, and had a long history of multiple vehicle-train confrontations. At the time, train speeds there were limited to 70 mph. The areas surrounding the crossing were heavily forested and the approaches to the tracks are below railroad grade, making for a noticible "hump" on which vehicles and trailers often get high-centered. It did have stop signs and traditional railroad crossbucks. There had been at least four previous fatalities there prior to 2017. It had been noted as a "crossing of note" by the safety advocacy website "Trains in the Valley."

As a result of the March 2017 incident, a town worker backing the city truck, road department foreman Warren Cowles, was fatally injured. Amtrak #1 never ran again in revenue service after that date. It moved to Beech Grove on a CSX freight train in late September and has remained stored there since.

In September of 2019, standard crossing gate/lights were installed at this crossing. However, it should be noted that in the current era of social media and texting, it is routine for drivers to ignore such legacy crossing warning systems, either crashing through them, or driving around. More serious incidents occur today at gated crossings than at "unprotected" crossings.

June 7, 2023 Update from 4rr.com