Amtrak touts new locomotives for local passengers

Quincy University director of community relations Matt Bergman, left, QU President Phil Conover and Derrick James with Amtrak examine the new Siemens Charger locomotive Monday at the West Quincy rail yard. The new locomotive will be serving customers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri. | H-W Photo/Michael Kipley
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 14, 2017 8:40 am Updated: Nov. 14, 2017 12:19 pm

WEST QUINCY, Mo. -- Passengers traveling via Amtrak between Quincy and Chicago may have noticed some differences in recent months on their trips.

The Carl Sandburg and Chicago Zephyr services are routes that have new locomotives.

Officials with Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation highlighted the new Siemens Charger locomotives Monday afternoon at the West Quincy rail yard.

Scott Speegle, the passenger rail communications manager for IDOT, said passenger experience should be improved.

"They will provide a better acceleration and deceleration, and so we'll have a smoother ride and better on-time performance," Speegle said. "We're very excited about this."

The new locomotives make it easier for more passenger cars to be added during peak travel days.

"They could pull more cars more efficiently than the older locomotives," Speegle said. "We generally look to add cars at times there is a greater demand."

Manufactured in California, the diesel-electric Charger locomotives use three times less fuel and have 90 percent less emissions than the previous locomotives, which were 20 to 25 years old. Powered by a Cummins engine built in Indiana, the new locomotives can reach speeds up to 125 mph.

"They also are capable of having the positive train control, which will be coming as mandated by Congress by the end of 2018, I believe," Speegle said.

Positive train control is a communication- and processor-based system designed to stop a train before a crash may occur. The Federal Railroad Administration says it can prevent "train-to-train collisions, overspeed derailments, incursions into established work-zone limits and the movement of a train through a main-line switch in the wrong position."

The new locomotives, which are branded "Amtrak Midwest," are jointly owned by Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan, and are leased to Amtrak. In Illinois, the new locomotives also serve the Hiawatha service between Chicago and Milwaukee, the Saluki/Illini service between Chicago and Cardondale and the Lincoln Service between Chicago and St. Louis.

Delivery of the first 12 locomotives based out of Chicago took place in August. The Midwest lines are expected to take delivery of the remaining 21 by January.

The locomotives were purchased through $216.5 million in federal funds.