Photographs & History

Photographs and History

End of an Era

One of the last remaining Amtrak AEM-7s heads north with a regional train through Holmesburg Junction in Northeast Philadelphia shortly before retirement in February of 2016. Photograph by Patrick Yough

One of the last remaining Amtrak AEM-7s heads north with a regional train through Holmesburg Junction in Northeast Philadelphia shortly before retirement in February of 2016. Photograph by Patrick Yough

Class GG1 electric locomotive number 4868 pulls The Congressional circa 1965. Amtrak's AEM-7 was the successor of the highly regarded GG-1 both of which had successful careers on the Northeast Corridor, only time will tell if the Siemens ACS-64 will prove to be a worthy replacement.

Class GG1 electric locomotive number 4868 pulls The Congressional circa 1965. Amtrak's AEM-7 was the successor of the highly regarded GG-1 both of which had successful careers on the Northeast Corridor, only time will tell if the Siemens ACS-64 will prove to be a worthy replacement.

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. 

End of Summer Update

Construction waits as a late running inbound crude train crosses the Delair Bridge into Southern New Jersey during the April Outage. This week marks the sixth and final shoot for Conrail documenting the Delair Improvements program.

Construction waits as a late running inbound crude train crosses the Delair Bridge into Southern New Jersey during the April Outage. This week marks the sixth and final shoot for Conrail documenting the Delair Improvements program.

I hope you all had an enjoyable summer! I know, I promised an in-depth series of posts on the evolution of the Lancaster area on the Pennsylvania Railroad and so far I have published one part. There is more to come I assure you! Recently with gracious assistance from friend William L. Seigford and accompanied by the knowledgeable Mark Hoffman I made a trip to sew up some loose ends on the Lancaster Terminal and the New Holland Branch. Much of this film has been processed but still needs scanning and editing to add to the series, rounding out the contemporary part of my survey. Adding to the backlog, this week marks the last of six shoots for Conrail documenting improvements to the former PRR Delair Bridge, a vital connection between the South Jersey cluster of Conrail Shared Assets and Norfolk Southern and CSX’s transportation networks. Once complete I'll be shifting gears to finalize and begin promoting the upcoming exhibition I am curating at the Monmouth Museum in Lincroft, NJ. I look forward to sharing this exciting Fall season for the blog and Main Line Project and as always thank you for your patience and support!

Sincerely,

Michael Froio

Remembering the Conrail OCS

While I typically keep this to fairly current work of my own, I was recently going through some old slides that I made through the 1990s. Finding the images below were pretty special considering two of three of these locomotives would be lovingly restored to their Pennsy liveries by Bennett Levin and his Juniata Terminal Company. Although the Conrail "Office Car Special" (OCS) trains are of the past, their legacy lives on.

Having made its reverse move from the High Line onto Amtrak at Arsenal Interlocking, the consist runs its final few miles North into 30th Street Station, seen here coming and going near South Street.

Having made its reverse move from the High Line onto Amtrak at Arsenal Interlocking, the consist runs its final few miles North into 30th Street Station, seen here coming and going near South Street.

In July of 1998, I was a student in Philadelphia and was in close proximity of Amtrak's 30th Street Station. Through a friend I learned that Conrail would be running a series of "Farewell" trips with their beautiful business train complete with all three E units and a full assortment of cars including the Budd built full length dome car #55, a former Santa Fe car that graced the San Francisco Chief among other consists, and of course the former VIA Rail Pullman Standard Car #9 a Theater Observation Car. When I received the call in regard to its evening arrival in Philadelphia, a good friend and I ventured track side for one of the last views of a Conrail "OCS" train. Within months the process of Norfolk Southern and CSX carving up the Conrail system would begin and the trademark Brunswick Green train set would be spit up or auctioned off.

CR 4020 a former Pennsy E8A, one of two that would go on to be restored by Bennett Levin's Juniata Terminal Company shares company with NJT GP40PH-2 No. 4146. This former GP40 locomotive that was actually rebuilt by Conrail's Juniata Shop in 1993 in a program for NJT. The photo was taken within Penn Interlocking located on the north side of 30th Street Station.

CR 4020 a former Pennsy E8A, one of two that would go on to be restored by Bennett Levin's Juniata Terminal Company shares company with NJT GP40PH-2 No. 4146. This former GP40 locomotive that was actually rebuilt by Conrail's Juniata Shop in 1993 in a program for NJT. The photo was taken within Penn Interlocking located on the north side of 30th Street Station.