By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Amtrak is now in the midst of full-scale testing of new locomotives that will be put into service along the Northeast Corridor this fall.
“This will be the workhorse of the Amtrak fleet, 70 locomotives.”
Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman was proudly showing off two of the new locomotives at testing facility in Colorado.
And that testing is extremely rigorous, according to Siemens Rail Systems President Michael Cahill.
“Testing will continue throughout the summer, testing on all sorts of aspects, including acceleration, deceleration,” Cahill said. “(Our plan is) to test everything from electromagnetic interference, to acceleration, to performance, ride quality, noise testing.”
And the testing includes simulating the often-unpredictable weather of the Washington-to-Boston corridor.
“From the heat to the cold, so that later on this Fall, when the first of the locomotives goes into operation in the Northeast corridor, we won’t expect any surprises.”
Each of the 70 new locomotives costs just over $6.5 million, and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo — a former train engineer — was wowed by it.
“It’s just so quiet, so smooth, and quickly accelerates,” Szabo said. “It’s really a thing of beauty. When you board this locomotive, it’s more like going into an office and sitting at a desk with a computer in front of you. It’s really a high-tech environment.”
The new locomotives will replace the 30-year-old engines that pull regular Amtrak service both along the Northeast Corridor and from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. They are not replacing the newer Acela locomotives. Amtrak hopes to put the first into service this fall, with the entire new fleet deployed by 2016.