Because these photos take me so long to upload, I need to set aside, literally, hours to create a blogpost such as this -- that is to say, a post that is festooned with more than three or four smaller sized photographs. I finally had that time.
For our viewing pleasure today, I present my sojourn into the cab of one of Amtrak's P42DC General Electric Genesis locomotives, #100. This engine is one of a hundred purchased by Amtrak and built in 1997, featuring 4,250 hp and weighing 268,000 pounds (134 tons). This locomotive has a four-stroke diesel prime mover and DC traction motors on B trucks.
The story is this: Amtrak's #5 California Zephyr is traveling westbound (downhill) over the Roseville Subdivision having already passed Truckee, Donner Lake and Towle. It came to a stop when there were serious track problems ahead. Again, as indicated, I will not be giving details as to time, date, specific situation or even the year involved, in order to keep every cab crew safe and anonymous. This is one primary reason I still am invited into cabs after 16 years of track coverage.
That said, because I was taking photographs around the stopped train, the engineer asked if I'd care to climb up into the cab for a tour, anticipating their being in place for at least an hour or two.
We spoke at length about our respective jobs, and pointed out a few things about the GE P42DC. First, he said he somewhat enjoyed the ride as compared to freight locomotives, and enjoyed the fact that passenger trains take priority over freight on UP's Roseville Sub.
He also said, however, that he didn't much care for the limited view from the cab, or the fact that there wasn't much of a "crash cushion" in the nose; that is to say, freight locomotives have longer noses and collision posts ahead of the cab, enabling in his mind the ability to more readily survive a head-on impact with another locomotive or the end of another train.
He also indicated that the Genesis P42 was "top heavy," because the fuel tanks were designed higher into the carbody than freight locomotives, for a more aesthetically pleasing appearance. This translated to, he said, occasional uneasiness for engineers at higher speeds in curves.
Continuing, he said, GE four-stroke engines don't load quite as quickly as EMD two-stroke engines, but that is common. Finally, because of the distance from the seat to the window, he misses being able to rest his arm and elbow on the open window sill.
We continued speaking about the working conditions, unions and pay scales (Amtrak pay in 2007 was $28/hour; engineer pay in general, as of 2011, ranges between $50,000 to $110,000 per year depending on a large number of factors) of our various jobs and I made a note that I hadn't considered: there are two engineers in the cab. The person sitting in what would normally be the conductor's left seat is called the "co-engineer," because, of course, there are actual conductors on board the trailing cars of the train. Both persons are qualified engineers and spell each other when necessary.
Finally, UP's Dispatcher 74 cleared the Zephyr to continue, and the train departed. I had made another friend. Capturing the interior of an Amtrak train is a rarity indeed, because seldom do Amtrak trains stop -- and only briefly -- at their appointed stations.
Please enjoy, read the captions, and click on each photograph to enlarge for detail.