Starting this week, new state-of-the-art Amtrak Cascades locomotives are rolling on the tracks from Vancouver, B.C. to Eugene, Oregon, right through the heart of the South Sound.
The eight Siemens Charger locomotives are significant upgrades from existing heavy rail engines. They meet the strictest Environmental Protection Agency emission standards, and are lighter and quieter. They also provide greater rates of acceleration and higher top speeds, though they’ll only be traveling up to 79 mph on this route.
In addition, the locomotives include computerized on-board positive train control safety equipment, which will automatically stop the train when there are dangerous situations on the rails, once that system is activated corridor-wide next year.
The locomotives, which boast 16-cylinder, 4,400 horsepower Cummins engines, also will be more reliable than the existing aging fleet and will be used on all routes. The American-made locomotives feature the traditional evergreen, cappuccino and cream Amtrak Cascades colors, along with logos from Washington and Oregon – the two states that jointly own and manage the Amtrak Cascades service.
All the Amtrak Cascades trains operate in a push-pull configuration that allows them to make a roundtrip without turning the train around. Initially, the trains will run with a new locomotive at one end and an older locomotive on the other end. This is part of the final process to break in the locomotives. Sometimes you’ll see the new locomotives pulling the train from the front and, at other times, they’ll be pushing the train from the back.
The existing Amtrak F-59 locomotives will be phased out of service on this corridor over the next year.