Amtrak AEM-7 No. 943 with a Metroliner at Seabrook, Maryland, in 1987
The AEM-7 is a twin-cab four-axle 7,000 hp (5.2 MW) B-B electric locomotive built by Electro-Motive Division (EMD) and ASEA between 1978–1988. The locomotive was a derivative of the Swedish SJ Rc4 designed for passenger service in the United States. The primary customer was Amtrak, which bought 54 for use on the Northeast Corridor and Keystone Corridor. Two commuter operators, MARC and SEPTA, also purchased locomotives.
Amtrak ordered the AEM-7 after the failure of the GE E60 locomotive. The first locomotives entered service in 1980 and were an immediate success. In the late 1990s Amtrak rebuilt 29 of its locomotives from DC to AC traction. The locomotives continued in service until the arrival of the Siemens ACS-64 in 2014. MARC retired its fleet in 2017 in favor of diesel locomotives; SEPTA will also replace its fleet with ACS-64 locomotives.
Amtrak assumed control of almost all private sector intercity passenger rail service in the United States on May 1, 1971, with a mandate to reverse decades of decline. Amtrak retained approximately 184 of the 440 trains which had run the day before. To operate these trains, Amtrak inherited a fleet of 300 locomotives (electric and diesel) and 1190 passenger cars, most of which dated from the 1940s–1950s.
Operation on the electrified portion of the Northeast Corridor was split between the Budd Metroliner electric multiple units and PRR GG1 locomotives. The latter were over 35 years old and restricted to 85 mph (137 km/h). Amtrak sought a replacement, but no United States manufacturer offered an electric passenger locomotive. Importing and adapting a European locomotive would require a three-year lead time. With few other options, Amtrak turned to GE to adapt the E60C freight locomotive for passenger service. GE delivered two models, the E60CP and the E60CH. However, the locomotives proved unsuitable for speeds above 90 mph (145 km/h), leaving Amtrak once again in need of a permanent solution.
Amtrak now turned to existing European high-speed designs, and two were brought over for trials in 1976–77: the Swedish Rc4 (numbered X995), and the French CC 21000 (X996). Amtrak favored the Swedish design, which became the basis for the AEM-7.
The AEM-7 was far smaller than its predecessors, the PRR GG1 and the GE E60. It measured 51 ft 1 25⁄32 in (15.59 m) long by 10 ft 2 in (3.10 m) wide, and stood 14 ft 9.5 in (4.51 m) tall. By comparison the E60CP was 71 ft 3 in (21.7 m) long, while the GG1 was 79 feet 6 inches (24.23 m) long. The AEM-7's weight, 101 short tons (90 long tons; 92 t), was half that of the E60CP (193.5 short tons (173 long tons; 176 t)) or the GG1 (237.5 short tons (212 long tons; 215 t)). On its introduction it was the "smallest and lightest high horsepower locomotive in North America." The Budd Company manufactured the carbodies for the initial Amtrak order, the Austrian firm Simmering-Graz-Pauker for the MARC order.
Reflecting the varied electrification schemes on the Northeast Corridor the locomotives could operate at three different voltages: 11 kV 25 Hz AC, 12.5 kV 60 Hz AC, and 25 kV 60 Hz. Thyristor converters stepped down the high-voltage AC to provide DC power at a much lower voltage to four traction motors, one per axle. As built the AEM-7 was rated at 7,000 hp (5.2 MW), with a starting tractive effort of 51,710 lbf (230 kN) and a continuous tractive effort of 28,100 lbf (125 kN). Its maximum speed was 125 miles per hour (201.2 km/h). A separate static converter supplied 500 kW 480V head-end power (HEP) for passenger comfort. This was sufficient to supply 8-10 Amfleet cars.
The rebuilt AEM-7ACs used AC traction instead of DC traction. The power modules used water-cooled insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) technology and provided about 5,000 kilowatts (6,700 horsepower) of traction power plus 1,000 kilowatts (1,300 horsepower) of HEP, twice the HEP capacity of the original DC units. The 6 FXA 5856 traction motors, from Alstom's ONIX family of propulsion components, had a maximum rating of 1,250–1,275 kilowatts (1,676–1,710 horsepower) each and a continuous rating of 1,080 kilowatts (1,450 horsepower). The remanufactured AEM-7ACs were the world's first passenger locomotives to incorporate IGBT technology.
Amtrak planned a fleet of 53 locomotives, with an estimated cost of $137.5 million. Limited funding hampered that plan, but in September 1977 Amtrak proceeded with a plan to buy 30 locomotives for $77.8 million. Five companies bid on the contract: General Motors' Electro-Motive Division (EMD)/ASEA, Morrison-Knudsen/Alsthom, Brown Boveri, Siemens-Krauss-Maffei, and AEG-Telefunken-Krauss-Maffei. Amtrak awarded the contract to EMD/ASEA in January 1978. It ordered 17 more locomotives in February 1980, bringing the total to 47.
Revenue service began on May 9, 1980, when No. 901 departed Washington Union Station with a Metroliner service. The Swedish influence led to the nickname "Meatball", after Swedish meatballs. Railfans nicknamed the boxy locomotives "toasters." Between 1980 and 1982, 47 AEM-7s (Nos. 900-946) went into service. Amtrak retired the last of its PRR GG1s on May 1, 1981, while most of the GE E60s were sold to other operators. As the locomotives proved themselves other orders followed. Amtrak ordered seven more locomotives in 1987, delivered in 1988, for a total of 54. Two commuter operators in the Northeast ordered AEM-7s. MARC ordered four in 1986 for use on its Penn Line service on the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and Perryville, Maryland. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) ordered seven in 1987. Amtrak also used the AEM-7s to handle the Keystone Service on the Keystone Corridor between Harrisburg and Philadelphia as the Budd Metroliners, displaced from the Northeast Corridor, reached the end of their service lives.
In 1999, Amtrak and Alstom began a remanufacturing program for Amtrak's AEM-7s. Alstom supplied AC propulsion equipment, electrical cabinets, transformers, HEP, and cab displays. The rebuild provided Amtrak with locomotives that had improved high end tractive effort and performance with longer trains. Amtrak workers performed the overhauls under Alstom supervision at Amtrak's shop in Wilmington, Delaware. These remanufactured AEM-7s were designated AEM-7AC. Between 1999 and 2002, Amtrak rebuilt 29 of its AEM-7s.
As the locomotives passed thirty years of service their operators made places for replacements. In 2010 Amtrak ordered 70 Siemens ACS-64 locomotives to replace both the AEM-7s and the newer but unreliable Bombardier/Alstom HHP-8s. The ACS-64s began entering revenue service in February 2014. The last two active AEM-7s, Nos. 942 and 946, made their final run on June 18, 2016, on a special farewell excursion that ran between Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. Caltrain, which operates commuter trains in the San Francisco Bay Area, showed interest in purchasing several retired Amtrak AEM-7s to test their electrification system once completed. The units would also serve as backup power for EMU cars. MARC decided in 2015 to phase out its electric operations on the Penn Line and retire both its AEM-7 and Bombardier–Alstom HHP-8 locomotives in favor of the Siemens Charger diesel locomotive. The last of the MARC AEM-7s were retired by April 2017, with the Chargers expected to enter service by January 2018. SEPTA will replace its seven AEM-7s and lone ABB ALP-44, an improved AEM-7, with the ACS-64. One unit has been preserved. Ex-Amtrak No. 915 was moved to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in June 2015.
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- AEM-7DC power, tractive effort, and braking curve graphs on page 11-27 (figures 11.2.10 - 11.2.12).
- AEM-7AC Completion Dates and Data by On Track On Line
Passenger rail cars and locomotives of SEPTA Regional Rail and its predecessors
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