An Amtrak train passes through Metuchen, N.J., in 2003. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)

The AEM-7 is a B-B electric locomotive that is used in the United States on the Northeast Corridor between Washington DC and Boston and the Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg in Pennsylvania.

They were built by Electro-Motive Division from 1978 to 1988. In the Boston Mechanical Department of Amtrak they are known as “Meatballs,” and in the Washington Mechanical Department they are knowns as ASEAs since some of their major parts and components were designed in Sweden by ASEA (Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget), which was merged with ABB (Asea Brown Boveri) in 1988). They are also affectionately referred to as “toasters” by railfans owing to their boxy appearance.

In the mid-1970s. Amtrak began to look for a successor to the famous Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric locomotive. Existing European designs were considered. Two European locomotives were brought over for a series of trials in 1977. One was a French CC 21000 class given number X996, and the other was a Swedish Rc4, X995.

Amtrak favored the Swedish design, which became the base for the AEM-7. Amtrak first ordered 30 AEM-7s in 1977 (Order Number: 776073), then ordered additional 17 AEM-7s in 1980 (Order Number: 806004).

Amtrak had more than 50 AEM-7s on its Amtrak roster. MARC and SEPTA also operate AEM-7s in commuter service. The MARC units (4900-03) were built in 1986, while the SEPTA units (2301-07) were built in 1987.

In October 2006, Amtrak, due to the upgrade of the Keystone Corridor between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, started running electrified “push-pull” service on its Keystone trains, with the AEM-7 “trailing” eastbound and “leading” westbound. Apart from Keystone trains between Philadelphia and New York, all Amtrak AEM-7s on the Northeast Corridor, regardless of direction, lead their trains (no push-pull operation).

MARC, SEPTA, and Amtrak Keystone Service trains operate the AEM-7s in push-pull mode, with a cab car on one end of the train and the locomotive on the other end.

In 1999, Amtrak and Alstom began a remanufacturing program for Amtrak AEM-7s. Alstom supplied AC propulsion equipment, electrical cabinets, transformers, head-end power (HEP), and cab displays so that they have AC traction motors, improved propulsion, and improved torque. Amtrak workers performed the overhauls under Alstom supervision at Amtrak’s shop in Wilmington, Del.

Amtrak retired its Meatballs in 2016.

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