Monday, April 9, 2012

Inside an Amtrak GE P42DC Locomotive

Amtrak #6, the California Zephyr, with #100 on point, on a different day from these cab shots -- taken past the detector at MP148. The train is about to pass under Interstate 80.

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.

The right (engineer's) side of Amtrak #100. As opposed to freight locomotives, this series of GE engines feature suspended seats with cloth instead of heavy-duty vinyl coverings. You can see that, if spun forward, the seat would be a number of inches away from the engineer's window. Resting your elbow on the window sill? Not happening.
The co-engineer's seat, left side of the locomotive. Many of the screens and controls are duplicated on this side, as opposed to a freight locomotive -- which provides little (if any) input or monitoring for the freight conductor. Just behind the co-engineer's seat (lower left) is the cab refrigerator.
Looking out the left side door, forward. Rearview mirror provided for the co-engineer. As opposed to a freight locomotive, there are bi-lateral doors on a GE Genesis engine because there is no nose door.
HEP (head end power) control panel on the co-engineer's side, along with the large red emergency brake button on left, and red HEP cutoff button on right.
Overhead view of engineer's seat, with yours truly in the right-side rearview. Right side engineer position has two CRT screens, in order to switch from various necessary command views and monitor two screens simultaneously.
GE display, indicating that HEP is on, HEP is running at 427 amps, train is stopped, 93 pounds in the brake pipe.
Sitting in the co-engineer's seat, looking toward engineer. Seat facing forward, left armrest up.
Chatting with the engineer, whose right elbow I actually expose here. Nice bag of chips. Cab crews get hungry like anyone else. And, unless stopped, cab crews can't be reached or fed by passenger cars due to the configuration of the locomotives. They are isolated.
Co-engineer's side, sun shade pulled down, CRT screen in middle.
Here, you can see all three seats available in a GE Genesis locomotive. On right, engineer's seat. Upper left, co-engineer's seat. Engineer leans on middle seat, for one extra cab occupant. You can see that not only is the floor rubberized for noise isolation, but there are floor equipment access panels as well. Middle bin contains reading material and digital programmable radio.
Left graphic display on engineer's side.
Close-up of engineer's desktop control panel. From left to right: Reverser (handle removed and with engineer per rules), throttle & dynamic brake then, on the right cluster, the automatic brake (for train) and independent brake (for the locomotive). Forward to apply braking, back to release. Alerter switch reset at the lower right.
All three seats captured vertically. Co-engineer left, engineer right.
Desktop controls, both screens, light and control detail panel on right.
Middle of cab-wide desktop panel, engineer position and controls on right.
Close-up of HEP control panel. Cup holders across the desktop.
Vertical shot of engineer's position, taken from engineer's seat itself. Here is what the engineer actually sees down the road, dead ahead.
Close-up of co-engineer's desktop portion. Phone handle is for locomotive radio.
Overall vertical view of co-engineer's (left) side, to include middle seat. Shot from engineer's seat.
Close-up view of engineer's desktop position. Click to expand for control detail. See sanding and bell controls on left side vertical strip. Buttons are blue in color.
Back (aft) bulkhead control panel. This is to the right of the engine room access door, right side of cab. Trash bag below. Isolation panel just above bag. Numerous circuit breakers and panels above.
View of engineer's desktop controls and panel, taken from center seat.
Same, with clipboard and engineer's paper towel "reminder," given to him from Dispatcher 74.
Overall view of co-engineer position, from engineer's seat.
Looking directly out the front of GE Genesis P42DC Amtrak locomotive #100, from the engineer's seat. This is what the engineer sees, fifteen feet above the track ahead.

Please enjoy, read the captions, and click on each photograph to enlarge for detail.



Well Seasoned Fool said...

I, for one, appreciate the work that went into this post. To win the trust of the train crews so they will bend the rules (like was done twenty or more years ago) says a lot about who you are. Just don't let DHS drag you in front of a Grand Jury.

Milepost 154 said...

WSF: hey, these are just rumors, anyway!


Old NFO said...

Nicely done! And an interesting look into their lives, thanks!

Milepost 154 said...

NFO, thank you sir! A post like this takes up the bulk of my day to create, but I happen to have many more cab shots to post with both GE and EMD locomotives.

When I can find the time to upload those high resolution photographs.

I could cut the resolution down, yes, I know. But I want people to try to experience what I saw, in enlarged versions, when I saw it.

That's why I ask people to right-click the photographs in order to enlarge the experience.


Rick Allen said...

Thanks for the great post and pictures! We just rode the Zephyr from sac to Chicago last Tuesday and had a wonderful time. It was a my first long distance train trip and will not be my last.
Thanks again.


Bloviating Zeppelin said...


Thanks for the kudos and please come back again for future posts.

My goal is to give insight into the world of railroads.


You can visit my alter-ego site at Bloviating Zeppelin.


Donjo said...

I kept a scrapbook of train pictures when I was four years old, and more recently I've ridden the CA Zephyr to Fraser/Winter Park with a Michigan ski club several times. Thanks for your time and effort in putting these photos online.

Donjo said...

I kept a scrapbook of train pictures when I was four years old, and more recently I've ridden the CA Zephyr to Fraser/Winter Park with a Michigan ski club several times. Thanks for your time and effort in putting these photos online.

Mike said...

Great photos and great dialog.

I live south of Chicago across from the Homewood Amtrak station. Homewood is the first stop out of Chicago for trains that run south to Champaign (the Illini), Carbondale (the Saluki), and New Orleans (the City of New Orleans running highliners). Three trains run each way everyday and I've come to know the schedule. In fact, when my son was younger, we would hang out on the Amtrak platform when trains were due in. He now rides one of these very trains to and from college now that he's a student at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

Got sidetracked there. The reason I stumbled upon your blog was because I was doing a search seeking an answer to my question about why Amtrak will, at times, run two locomotives, one on each end, on the Illini and Saluki. Sort of a push/pull arrangement that I've also seen elsewhere. Most of the time both locomotives are running. Any info you can forward would be great.

Thanks - Mike -

Pooch said...

Well done. Thank you for the blog!

neal said...

Thank you so much. I love trains, and have photographed all kinds of train events,and the interiors of sleepers, private cars, dining cars, and observation cars. Unfortunately the one thing I have never been able to get into is an engine. Finally, I am able to see photos of the holiest of hollies. Thank you so much.

Michael Manley said...

I saw pictures of toilets for the crews on differant locomotives where are they on a amtrak locomotive

Anonymous said...

Cool! I remember standing by railroad tracks in the 1960's as trains went past. Thanks for putting this blog together, and all of the links to other great pages. I've shared this page with my brother, who also loves trains. Were you allowed to get pictures of the diesel driver or the electric motors?
I'm sure that I'll visit this page many times!
Thanks, Steve L

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