Budd Metroliner

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A Metroliner cab car in PRR colors
Manufacturer Budd
Entered service 1969
Number built 61 (31 coaches, 20 snack, and 10 parlor cars)
Fleet numbers (original) 800-830, 850-869, 880-889
(current) 9630–9649, 9800, 9826-9828
Operator Penn Central,
Line(s) served Keystone Corridor, Northeast Corridor, New Haven – Springfield Line
Car length 85 ft 0 in (25.91 m)
Width 10 ft 6 in (3.20 m)
Height 14 ft 10 in (4.52 m) (pantographs locked down)
Doors Two per car
Maximum speed 150 mph (241 km/h) design
125 mph (201 km/h) in service (1968-1978)
90 mph (145 km/h) in service (1978-1980s)
125 mph (201 km/h) in converted cab car configuration
Weight 166,000 lb (75,000 kg)
Power output 1,200 hp (890 kW) (coaches)
1,020 hp (760 kW) (parlor and snack cars)
Transmission Rectified direct current supplied via 4 Ignitron tubes to a phase angle controller to either 4 Westinghouse 1461-A 300 hp DC traction motors (coaches) or 4 General Electric 1254-A1 255 hp DC traction motors (parlor and snack cars).
Electric system(s) Catenary
11-13.5 kV 25 Hz AC
11-13.5 kV 60 Hz AC
25 kV 60 Hz AC
Current collection method Pantograph
UIC classification Bo′Bo′
Bogies Outboard bearing, equalized.
Braking system(s) Electro-pneumatic, dynamic
Coupling system Tomlinson (later changed to AAR)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The Budd Metroliner car was a married pair electric multiple unit ("EMU") train designed for first-class, high-speed service on the Pennsylvania Railroad's route between New York City and Washington, DC.

Built between 1968 and 1969, they operated in eponymous service on the Penn Central beginning in early 1969 (after the Pennsylvania's merger with the New York Central) and continuing under Amtrak after the latter's 1971 creation. These cars would be an important factor into the creation of the Amfleet cars, also manufactured by Budd. Being two-car sets, they were typically arranged in four to eight-car configurations.


The High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965 started a U.S. government effort to develop a high speed train for Northeast Corridor service. The U.S. Department of Transportation worked with the Pennsylvania Railroad, Budd Company, General Electric, and Westinghouse to develop an electric multiple unit high speed passenger train, hoping to begin in 1967.[1]

The ancestor of the Metroliner multiple unit railcar was the Budd Pioneer III which had been developed for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1958 as a new concept in long distance passenger service in the east. The cars used new propulsion technologies and lightweight construction in an effort to improve performance compared with older electric MU technology. After a fleet of 55 improved Pioneer III cars referred to as Silverliners were ordered for commuter trains in the Philadelphia area, the United States Department of Transportation placed a follow up order for 4 Silverliners, specially modified for high speed operation on the PRR's Northeast Corridor. Equipped with several modifications, including a semi-streamlined slab end on the front of the lead car, the experimental train ran a series of test runs, reaching a speed of 156 miles per hour (251 km/h) in 1966.[2]

The Metroliner program was originally a partnership between the Pennsylvania Railroad, U.S. Department of Commerce (prior to the establishment of the Department of Transportation) and ICC and the first units were delivered in late 1967 with PRR livery. The Penn Central merger in 1968 resulted in the remainder of the cars being delivered with the PC logo, although PRR specified gray paint with red pinstripes was retained around the windows. In 1968 the prototype pair of Metroliners reached 164 miles per hour (264 km/h) on test runs around Princeton Junction, NJ,[2] but troubles with the ambitious technology prevented the start of service until 1969. Due to the condition of the track and signal system the Federal Railroad Administration only allowed Metroliners 120 miles per hour (190 km/h) between Washington and New York. Still, this was faster than anything else in North America and provided speed, comfort and amenities that could compete with the airlines.

The Amtrak Years[edit]

The interior of a first class configuration Metroliner car in revenue service with Amtrak.

In 1971 the Metroliner cars were transferred from the bankrupt Penn Central to the newly formed National Rail Passenger Corporation (Amtrak). The cars continued to be unreliable. In 1979 and 1980 Amtrak sent a number of Metroliner cars through a modification program that relocated some of the electrical components from under the floor of the vehicle to a streamlined hump of the roof to alleviate problems with blowing snow getting into the workings. The cars typically ran in 6-car sets, although 4-car and 8-car trains were occasionally run. Some cars were repainted in Amtrak's Phase I paint scheme with red, white and blue ends and a small Amtrak logo. Later in 1980 some cars received the Phase II scheme, a red and blue front end with a large Amtrak logo across the full width. Many Metroliners that received this paint scheme did so in conjunction with the roof hump modification.

Around 1980 Amtrak embarked upon another capital program to upgrade the worn out track and purchase new locomotives and rolling stock to finally achieve the performance goals that the Metroliner cars had never been able to reach. The nearly 500 Amfleet I cars which had arrived between 1975 and 1978, which had the same outward appearance of the Metroliners, were to be pulled behind a fleet of 52 new AEM-7 locomotives at 125 miles per hour (201 km/h). As this equipment was delivered the Metroliner MU cars began to be withdrawn as the MUs were increasingly worn and unable to achieve speeds the upgraded track would allow.

In the mid-1980s a number of the Metroliner MU cars were re-branded as Capitoliners to work Amtrak's Harrisburg Line between Philadelphia and the state capitol of Harrisburg, however there were no actual modifications to the equipment. By this point reliability had become such a problem that trains of Metroliners were towed by electric or sometimes diesel locomotives.

Conversion to Control Cars[edit]

A Metroliner cab car leading a Keystone Service in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania in 2007.

In the late 1980s Amtrak found itself with a supply of surplus MU cars with problematic propulsion systems, but with sound body and frame. Most Metroliners were stored at Amtrak's Wilmington and Bear, Delaware shop complexes, but a few had their MU components removed and were converted into cab control cars for push–pull train service. They initially saw service on regional trains out of Los Angeles and Chicago, on the San Diegan and Amtrak's Michigan Services. They eventually found their way onto Amtrak's Springfield Shuttle and the Vermonter. In 2007 six former Metroliner cars were pulled from storage and rebuilt for Amtrak's Keystone Service which was adopting push-pull all electric operation.


One Metroliner snack bar car (860) has been preserved at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in its original paint scheme and with an original interior. As of 2009 a sizable number of former Metroliner cars remain in storage on Amtrak property at the Bear, Delaware shops. One unit at Bear (9709, ex-809) retains its original Phase II appearance with an unmodified front end.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.trains.com/trn/default.aspx?c=a&id=381 www.trains.com - Metroliner's amazing career
  2. ^ a b Pensy Power II

External links[edit]