The GE Genesis design, being a "cab" unit with the body integral to the structure, has provided its fans with interesting paint jobs over the last dozen years. There are removable roof panels, but since the work usually also has been requiring cutting into the side panels as well, a heavy overhaul almost always triggers a full exterior repaint job. The engine is 69 feet long, generating up to 4250 hp.
Locomotives #26-36 originally were earmarked for Michigan as they were produced in 1996. Road number 37 was a cusp unit, sometimes operating out of Michigan, and sometimes out of New Orleans. In a second order, delivered in 2000, engines #126-127-128 were also produced by General Electric and delivered to Chicago for Michigan work. Later on, #128 was destroyed, and 38 was shifted into the Michigan pool.
Over the decades, passenger-only trackage has been developed in Michigan, first being the section between Porter, Indiana and Kalamazoo, Michigan that is actually owned by Amtrak, and secondly most of the line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, now owned by the state. The goal is to operate trains on these lines at speeds of up to 110 mph. Because this trackage has been or is being upgraded for the faster speeds, special equipment is needed on the locomotives. While its usage in Michigan pre-dates the 2008 Congressional mandate that "positive train control" be installed on passenger-hauling locomotives, the Michigaan system is a form of "PTC."
The last we saw of #34 was in 2021 on the Empire Builder. With arrivals of new Chargers on Michigan routes, as well as elimination of trains there due to a 2019 virus outbreak, the former Michigan engines have been pressed back into service elsewhere. The cost of these P42's was $2.8 million when new, ($10 million in 2021 funds), a price which now sounds like a bargain. Amtrak has gotten 25 years of service out of #34, and she is still going strong.
During his short stay as Amtrak's later President, George Warrington restyled the paint scheme. That process took seven years to complete, longer than Warrington stayed around. David Gunn, who followed him, started changing nose cones, which take a beating in road crossing accidents, and all but one originals are now gone. Engine 108 was the second to last, and received a special anniversary paint job in 2021.
Number boards and noses were changed, with locomotives #33 and #34 being reached at the end of the process. Further, starging in 2007-08 the lexan headlight door was being removed on new overhauls, with #197 possibly first.
The 30's series of road numbers constituted an interesting study, because particularly #30-35 tended to remain in Michigan, and did not get around the country that much. Low band bluenose paint scheme originated May 2001 in new production at road number 169 and after that was applied at overhaul to all repaints as well. Michigan engines stayed the longest in their original bicentennial stripes because they were relatively low mileage, and among the last to get their first midlife overhaul (when other units were getting their second). Engine 34 was the only one to also go through the "northeastern" paint scheme. Only one got the high stripe bluenose. Another quirk was the serial numbers on the stickers, which got messed up at the GE factory. Engine 34 originally had the same serial number as #37, and the other stickers got out of order relative to the road
Eventually Amtrak threw three or four more of the 2000-built P42's into the Michigan pool, and for a while there was a P42 on both ends of a 3 or 4 car train, a cushy job for these low-mileage overpowered engines. On occasion, the Michigan trains were used as run-throughs down to Quincy, Illinois. The Quincy route was replaced with Chargers in 2018, so the run-throughs seldom happen any longer.
Amtrak's P42 was originally designed to have a top speed of 103 mph. Portions of the Michigan route have been engineered to allow 110 mph running, so P42's had to be tweaked to make those speeds. Among the changes was the addition of a big nasty equipment box over the fireman's side of the cab.
Experiences with the 2016-built Chargers on Illinois and Michigan routes during 2018-2021 have been quirky. There also have been road-crossing incidents that showed their vulnerabilities. Amtrak did not use most of them until they were already 5 years old, and the last of the 2016 built units finally started seeing service in summer 2021 after being moved east from the Pueblo, Colorado test track. The first loss of a new Charger took place in Washington State in November, 2017, when a Cascade train on an inaugural run failed to make a curve, and plunged off an overpass onto Interstate Highway 5 below. That unit, WDTX-1402, was the first to be scrapped. Amtrak has not yet been maintaining the Chargers, and maintenance has been contracted out by the states to a privately owned company. Accordingly, none have yet to go to any of the Amtrak overhaul or major repair shops such as Beech Grove, Indiana.
In 2021, the first "long-distance" Charger was delivered to the northeast corridor, supposedly for testing. Whether they will ever be seen on western trains remains yet to be seen. So there remains a question as to how long P42's such as #34 will still be around.
|UPDATED AUGUST 2021|