GENERAL ELECTRIC'S LAST TRANSPORTATION DIVISION HURRAH AND AMTRAKS VARIOUS PAINT SCHEMES
Before exiting the railroad business in 2019, the General Electric Corporation had a long history in the manufacture of passenger train locomotives at its Erie, Pennsylvania transportation division factory. Before that it produced products in Pittsburgh and at other locations. The "Genesis" series of diesel locos turned out to be the last mass-order of US-made passenger train motive power. All since 2001 have been of European heritage. GE built electrics as early as 1904, and is particularly noted for the GG-1, used on the Washington DC to New York City electrified line, formerly operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad, and now known as Amtrak's northeast corridor. In cooperation with the Pennsylvania, GE outfitted the GG-1's at Altoona, starting in 1934. The New York City to Washington DC line was fully electrified in 1935.
A 3,000 horsepower diesel, classified as the P30, operated for Amtrak in its early days, in competition with the Electromotive Division of General Motors, which had a virtual lock on streamlined passenger locomotives in the 1950's and 1960's. In 1991, Amtrak also purchased a derivative of the "Dash-8" freight engine in 1993, for use as passenger road locomotives. These "P-32's" have freight characteristics, such as corner stairs and walkways, and Amtrak still uses them today as switchers. The carry road numbers 500-519 for Amtrak (with two turned over to California Joint Powers).
"Genesis" orders by National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) began with 44 units, road-numbered 800-843. Using a 4,000 horse prime mover, these were styled as "P40," operable up to 103 miles per hour. Stickers on the lower flanks of the cab indicated the serial number and date of construction, replacing metal builder plates of earlier locomotives. As delivered, they had a since-removed hostler window on the rear, strobe lights, and a white reflective tape band around the skirt would eventually also be replaced with a red one.
In 1995, there was an order of for dual mode units, designed with a third-rail pickup for operation on 750 volt third rail Metro-North trackage in and around New York City. These were road-numbered 700-709. A slightly modified northeastern paint scheme was employed on a second batch #710-717 in 1998, differing slightly from the balance of the Amtrak Genesis series. Recently, the 700 series has been restyled into 50th anniversary throwback colors.
Original 1993 Genesis paint relied heavily on "platinum mist," a silver metalic base paint coat, not differing too much from earlier EMD F-40's. Overlaying the silver were traditional patriotic red, blue, and reflective white stripes. Genesis design and livery was credited to industrial designer Cesar Vergara, employed byAmtrak 1990-1999 and later New Jersey Transit. Vergara was hired by then-Amtrak president Graham Claytor, who was most responsible for upgrading Amtrak's motive power into the 21st century. Some of the early painting was out-sourced to Juniata, close by GE's Erie, Pennsylvania factory.
A minor variety took place in 1996, changing the fading stripes to a solid band all the way to the rear of the locomotive body. Amtrak briefly attempted to restyle its entire fleet livery in 1998. But a major millenium paint change awaited 2000. Then, a sweeping blue nose paint job flowed back into the platinum mist. Traditional stripes were gone. Some refer to the changes as phases, but defined by year, they are 1993-97, 1998, or 2000-01. For its 40th and 50th anniversaries, Amtrak repainted engines 66, 145, 701, 822 (for the exhibit train with depowered F40 #406), and eventually 130 into the traditional striped livery. Eventually all of the 700's were put back into 1993 style livery for New York Empire Service. Another change to the 700's that the rest of the fleet did not get was an escape hatch on the nose, for emergency exit in close quarters such as New York tunnels. In order to make room for the escape hatch, the lighted number board was removed.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE 1993 P40'S
Amtrak's 44 P40's (road numbers 800-843) arrived with strobe lights and a fading top side paint band. As they were redone, the top paint band was convered to solid. On average, Amtrak's locomotives have their paint refreshed on a 3-5 year cycle. An accident or fire might tend to move the schedule up. Beech Grove, Indiana has done most repaint honors. Except for #817, first generation Genesis units passed through a brief 1998 restyle, with a "northeastern" blue band. Road numbers were moved from the rear flanks to amidships. Most of the 43 lived out their days that way.
Due to unexpected 2008 stimulus funding, the best surviving P40's were upgraded in 2011 to 4,200 horsepower. As of April 2023, 8 of them are still providing motive power for the AutoTrain between Lorton and Sanford. Most other remaining 1993-built P40's (rebuilt or not) now have been sold, wrecked or scrapped. Two more are still reserve rovers at Amtrak. Sold operable units have ended up with Connecticut DOT and renumbered. Left-over hulks were sold to Larry's T&E. One of the LTE purchased units was still residing at Amtrak's Beech Grove shop in 2023, with a future unknown.
MORE ON AMTRAK PAINT
NRPC (Amtrak) was created Christmas eve 1969. The then-President Richard Nixon signed the authorizing legislation at his home in California. Although there has been debate, it seemed that NRPC was intended to give privately-owned railroads in the United States a bye from transporting passengers, and, without any dedicated source of funding other than ticket sales, the new organization was not expected to last more than four or five years. NRPC was to be a public service, not a "profit-making" entity as cash-cow passenger trains once had been. NRPC had the pick of 20-30 year old obsolete equipment from the railroading industry, and on May 1, 1971 began operating a scaled-down network. First generation Amtrak locomotives outside of the northeast corridor were cab units built by Electromotive, at that time a division of General Motors. Steam boilers were integral parts, inasmuch as passenger trains were at that time heated by steam. In 1971, locomotives wore colors of previous freight line owners, now referred to as "rainbow era" at Amtrak.
As they could, Amtrak begain repainting its locomotives black, with a red nose and a "pointless arrow" logo. For the 40th year anniversary, #156 got the red nose commemorative treatment. 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). For the non-NEC (northeast corridor) routes, two versions were tried, one provided by GE, and the other by EMD. The more successful design was the EMD platform, which was configured as the "F40." With generators pulling power from the locomotive for heat and air conditioning, traction was reduced, and it generally took at least two F-40's to run an Amtrak train in hilly or mountainous terrain. The paint on both the F40 and the ill-fated GE was platinum mist with the patriotic stripes, the design probably still to this day most associated with the history of passenger rail in the United States.
The process of passenger car conversion lasted until 1993 (and baggage cars much longer). Hand-me down cars, mostly Budd-built stainless steel varierty were ultimately referred to as the "heritage fleet." Even today, in 2023, VIA Rail Canada still uses these classics. Early-on, some of the Amtrak headend conversion work was done by contractors at the old Santa Fe shops in Topeka, Kansas. Later, Amtrak employees did their own work, mostly at a former "Big 4" freight shop in Beech Grove, Indiana.
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 with its "Genesis." Among the routes given up were the Desert Wind and the Pioneer. Las Vegas has not had passenger trains since.
A big P42 order was for 98 units, numbered 1-98, but upped to 120. Earliest deliveries had August 1996 build dates. As had been the P40's, the early batch of P42's came with "platinum mist" overlaid by red white and blue stripes and huge road numbers stenciled on the rear sides. The fading white stripe on the P40's was replaced with a solid one all the way to the rear. This 1996 livery was applied to all of the initial order 1-120, except for 101-111, delivered with what became known as "northeast direct," a short-lived 1998 marketing strategy. Engines 112-120 came in the standard 1996 stripes.
It is said that early units were sent from Erie in primer, and painted at the Juniata shops in Pennsylvania. Juniata was originally a Pennsylvania Railroad base, later Conrail during this period, and eventually Norfolk Southern to the present. GE also sold a handful of P42's to VIA Rail Canada, and a small batch of P32 third rail units to Metro-North. Metro-North units also have had the forward escape hatches added to their noses, along with Amtrak's 700's group. As mentioned, Amtrak's 700s were rebuilt after 2017, and the paint was returned to the 1993-era scheme ("throwback" in todays terms).
As-delivered 1993 paint only lasted two years into the 1996/1997-built order, before somebody at Amtrak decided to change the logo and attempt to apply northeast corridor branding across the entire national system. The second batch of dual-modes, #710-717 were delivered that way, as were #101-111, modified with a grey nose, and stenciled for the "northeast corridor." Later, 121 and 122 arrived that way as new, when ordered for replacement of two P40's destroyed at Bourbonnais, Illinois. Between 1998 and 2000, as locomotives were damaged or pulled in for overhaul, some were re-done in that modified "northeast direct" scheme. In particular, the surviving P40's and the P42's numbered 1 through 29 were batch-ordered that way. For the 40th year anniversiary, #182 was govem a throwback northeastern paint job, which lasted until 2023, when the unit was returned to standard 2001 era livery.
The last new P42 came on the property in 2001. Road numbers 123-168 arrived in bluenose millenium, high skirt paint. Engines 169-207 came in a lower skirt version. As originally assigned, most P42's based at New Orleans, except for #101-111 at Rensselaer, New York, #112-119 at Los Angeles, and 26-36 at Pontiac for Michigan Wolverine duties. This changed in 2005 when the Amtrak yard in New Orleans flooded as a result of hurricane Katrina. There's been more fluctuation in assignments since 2010, given an abortive attempt to run some 50's and 60's road numbers in Illinois high-speed service for a time, and after 2018, the replacement of Michigan and Illinois units with new state-owned Chargers. As new long-distance Chargers in the 300+ road number series arrive, the older P42's are candidates for retirement.
The first loss of a Genesis locomotive had been #817 at Bayou Canot, Alabama. It had been brand-new, only a week or two old at the time. Two more P40's were destroyed by a semi-truck at Bourbonnais, Illinois on train 59. Two more replacement engines (#121 and 122) were ordered to replace wrecked ones, and aside from #710-717 and to a lesser degree #101-111, they became the only two P42's actually entering service in the 1998 paint job.
The first P42 losses were #143 and #149 in 2001 California Zephyr derailment and fire. As we shall see, there have been many more losses and retirements since then.
July 17, 2023 Update from 4rr.com