While I don’t typically write about motive power and rolling stock on the railroad, this week, with much fanfare a workhorse of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor will go to the stables for the last time. The venerable Amtrak AEM-7 locomotive fleet built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors has been the common face of regional and long distance trains up and down the Corridor for over 37 years, logging over 220 million miles in the process. Developed after testing Swedish and French electric locomotives in the 1970’s the units were designed after the successful Swedish class Rc4. Ultimately the AEM-7 fleet would replace Amtrak’s hand-me-down fleet of 30 class GG-1 electrics of Pennsylvania Railroad/Raymond Loewy fame after the purchase of General Electric E60’s failed to deliver in the mid-70’s. Utilizing electrical components supplied from Swedish company ASEA and shells constructed by the Budd Company in Philadelphia, EMD manufactured 54 of the units for Amtrak in three separate orders; 1977 (30 units), 1980 (17 units) and 1988 (7 units). Maryland Area Regional Commuter Service (MARC) and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Septa) also made subsequent orders while New Jersey Transit purchased a fleet of its successor, the ALP-44. The boxy double-ended 7000hp motors (PRR term for electric locomotives) were considered lightweight, weighing just 101 tons and were capable of a maximum speed of 125mph
Over the years they have affectionately received the nickname Swedish Meatball or Toasters because of their origin and size and were widely regarded as a success, being the second long-standing fleet of electric locomotives to ply the former PRR territory since the GG-1. The AEM-7s have been replaced by Amtrak’s new fleet of 70 Siemens built ACS-64 class motors, based on the successful EuroSprinter platform. Only time will tell if the Sprinters prove to be a match to the durability of the Meatball or the holy grail, the GG-1. While the last AEM-7 on Amtrak’s roster is dropped, several remain in service for Septa and MARC but on short time; Septa has placed an order for 13 new ACS-64 units and MARC will drop all electric powered service all together, converting all Penn Line trains to diesel with new Siemens Charger series locomotives. While it can always be argued that the lines and styling of the GG-1 coupled with its battleship like design will never be replicated the AEM-7’s durability has certainly made it a worthy successor in hauling passengers safely up and down the Northeast Corridor for almost 38 years.