Amtrak Bidding Farewell to AEM-7 Locomotives

AEM-7
AEM-7 electric locomotives in 2016 are ending a nearly 40-year career with a special journey (Photo courtesy Amtrak)

Amtrak is bidding a fond farewell to its fleet of AEM-7 electric locomotives.

The locomotives, nicknamed meatballs, have ferried passengers on the Northeast and Keystone corridors for the past 37 years, according to Amtrak. During that time, the locomotives have racked up more than 220 million miles.

“For nearly 40 years, the AEM-7 electric locomotive has been a workhorse for the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor,” USA Today quoted Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert as saying.

General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division (EMD) manufactured 65 AEM-7 electric locomotives between 1978 and 1988. While most served Amtrak, MARC and SEPTA also used the locomotives.

An Amtrak train, pulled by an AEM-7 electric locomotive, passes through the Newark Liberty International Airport trains station in Newark, N.J., in 2003.
An Amtrak trains passes through the Newark Liberty International Airport trains station in Newark, N.J., in 2003. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)

“Together with the Acela Express, AEM-7s have built on the legacies of the Pennsylvania and New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroads as the Northeast Corridor has expanded into the 21st century,” Amtrak said in a news release.

The June excursion will depart from Washington Union Station en route to Philadelphia. There, the train will reverse direction and head for a unique visit and tour of Wilmington Shops in Delaware, the maintenance home of the AEM-7, before returning to Washington.

The new Amtrak Cities Sprinter (ACS-64) locomotives are replacing the AEM-7s. However, Amtrak will salute the AEM-7 locomotives during a special excursion on June 18.

Amtrak previously said the new ACS-64 locomotives will be easier to maintain and use less energy than it’s current fleet. Additionally, the locomotives’ “regenerative braking system” will feed energy back into the power grid, according to Amtrak.

Amtrak placed the $466 million order for 70 of the Siemens-built electric locomotives in October 2010. Complete delivery of the new engines will take until 2016.

One of the AEM-7 electric locomotives, No. 915, is now part of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Pa., according to Railway Age.

“As Amtrak’s Cities Sprinter ACS-64 electric locomotives take to the rails, another class of locomotives, the AEM7, is being retired, passing into railroad history,” Railway Age quoted Jeffrey Bliemeister, director of the museum, as saying. “The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania has been fortunate to be the recipient of significant railroad equipment donated by Amtrak over the years. Our newly acquired AEM7 No. 915, built in 1981, takes the place of Amtrak E60 No. 603 as our ‘youngest’ locomotive.”