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EMD F40PH series
AMTK 315 Tun17 CZ Nwcstle Mar1995RP - Flickr - drewj1946.jpg
Amtrak F40PHR #315 on eastbound California Zephyr at Tunnel #17 near Newcastle, California in 1995
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder GM Electro-Motive Division (EMD)
General Motors Diesel (GMD)
Build date 1975–1992 (EMD)
1991–2000 (MK / MPI)
AAR wheel arr B-B
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Prime mover EMD 645E3
Engine type V16 Diesel
Cylinders 16
Performance figures
Maximum speed 110 mph (177 km/h)
Power output 3,000–3,200 hp (2.2–2.4 MW)

The EMD F40PH is a four-axle 3,000 hp (2.2 MW) B-B diesel-electric locomotive, built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division in several variants from 1975 to 1992 and used by Amtrak and commuter railroads on passenger trains.[1] F40PH variants were also built by MK Rail and MotivePower Industries from 1991 to 2000.[1]


Amtrak inherited an aging and mechanically-incompatible fleet of diesel locomotives from various private railroads on its startup in 1971. The most modern locomotives remained in private hands to operate the various commuter services which, by law, did not pass to Amtrak.[2] To replace these Amtrak ordered 150 EMD SDP40F locomotives, which began entering service in 1973. These were supplemented by 25 GE P30CHs which entered service in 1975. The SDP40F was a troubled design; problems with weight distribution led to a series of derailments in the mid-1970s.[3] Meanwhile, the poor truck design of the P30CH (and the electric GE E60CP) curtailed further orders of that unit when Amtrak found itself needing more short- and medium-distance power in the spring of 1975.[4]


Blue locomotive on raised track
Metra EMD F40PHM-2 locomotive #206 near Stuart Field in Chicago

The design of the F40PH was based on the EMD GP40-2 freight locomotive and shared that locomotive's turbocharged EMD 645E3 V16 cylinder, two-stroke, water-cooled diesel engine (prime mover). The prime mover developed 3,000 hp (2.2 MW) at 893 RPM. The main (traction) generator converts mechanical energy from the prime mover into electricity distributed through a high voltage cabinet to the traction motors. Each of the four traction motors is geared to a pair of driving wheels; the gear ratio determines the maximum speed of the locomotive.[5] A standard F40PH has a gear ratio of 57:20, permitting a maximum speed of 110 mph (177 km/h).[6]

While Amtrak's first order for thirty F40PH locomotives specified 3,000 horsepower (2.2 MW), the next order (from the Chicago RTA, later known as Metra) increased that specification to 3,200 horsepower (2.4 MW). Amtrak's earlier units were later uprated as well. An exception are the units purchased by Via Rail Canada, which are rated 3,000–3,200 horsepower (2.2–2.4 MW).[citation needed]

The F40PH has an enclosed cab unit, with a neater appearance than conventional hood units. En route, all-weather access to components is possible; passage through the engine room (and to trailing units) normally is used only during maintenance at repair points.[citation needed]

For passenger service the F40PH has another electrical alternator, the head-end generator. The HEP unit generates three-phase AC power at 480 V (500 kW on the first order, 800 kW on later units) for lighting, heating and air-conditioning the train. Originally, F40PHs powered the HEP alternator from the prime mover; from the head end to the train must be a constant frequency, and the prime mover had to turn at a constant 893 RPM while supplying head end power (even standing still, with the throttle in idle). Power to the traction motors was controlled by varying the field excitation of the main (traction) generator.[6]

On some later versions of the F40PH (and on many rebuilt F40s), a second small diesel engine at the rear of the locomotive powers the HEP alternator. In these engines, the prime-mover speed varies in the usual way; they can be identified by the diesel exhaust at the rear of the locomotive and by their quiet idle. Remaining F40s, with the constant-RPM prime movers, have been called "screamers". The MPI version of the F40PH was built by Morrison-Knudsen.[citation needed]


Amtrak EMD F40PHR No. 257 leading the Coast Starlight at Agnew in 1980, followed by a pair of EMD SDP40Fs
RTA EMD F40PH No. 123 crossing the Fox River in Elgin, Illinois in 1981

Amtrak ordered its first 30 F40PHs on May 8, 1975; the first of the new locomotives entered service on April 9 the following year. Amtrak intended to use the locomotives on short routes such as the San Diegan in California and Northeast Corridor services between New Haven, Connecticut and Boston, Massachusetts.[7] Two events intervened: the continuing unreliability of the EMD SDP40F on long-distance routes, and the unusually harsh winter of 1976–1977 sidelined much of Amtrak's aging steam-heated coaches. Numerous routes were suspended and the new HEP-equipped Amfleet I coaches, designed for short runs, were pressed into service. The F40PH with its built-in HEP generator was the natural choice to haul these trains.[8]

In the spring of 1977 Amtrak management settled on the F40PH as its long-term solution nationwide. Amtrak traded 40 SDP40Fs back to EMD; components including the prime mover were installed into an F40PH's frame. The 40 rebuilt locomotives were designated F40PHR and were identical to new-build F40PHs save for a larger fuel tank and more powerful HEP generator.[9] Amtrak ultimately acquired 123 F40PHRs in this manner, which combined with new orders between 1975–1988 led to a fleet of 216 locomotives, the country's largest fleet.[10]

The first commuter rail operator to follow suit was Chicago's Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), a forerunner to Metra, who ordered 74 locomotives between 1977–1983. Metra ordered 41 more between 1988–1992. Other agencies who bought the F40PH included the MBTA (18), Caltrain (20), GO Transit (6), New Jersey Transit (17), and Via Rail Canada (59). Finally, the rail construction firm Speno ordered four. In total EMD built 449 locomotives, including the F40PHR trade-ins.[10]

The F40PH performed well for Amtrak; at the start of the 1990s only four had been retired and the locomotive was at the center of Amtrak's advertising.[11] Trains magazine estimated that an F40PH traveled as many as 175,000 miles (282,000 km) a year.[12] Amtrak began replacing the F40PH with the GE P40DC in 1993 and the GE P42DC in 1996.[13] Most were retired by 2000.[11]

Commuter agency Metrolink purchased four F40PHs from Amtrak to repower with prime movers from second-hand EMD SD60s bought from UP. Only one was completed, as SCAX #800. A handful were bought by various other railroads and lessors after retirement from Amtrak.

Design flaws[edit]

The second design of the F40PH had the locomotive's fuel tank near the front of the engine with little to no protection, leaving it vulnerable in the event of a collision. The original design had the fuel tank behind the air tanks and battery boxes. This second design proved deadly when a MARC commuter train slammed into an Amtrak Capitol Limited train in Silver Spring, Maryland on February 16, 1996. At the time of the collision, Amtrak F40PH #255 was leading the train toward Chicago. When the MARC train impacted the lead F40PH, its fuel tanks ruptured, igniting the fire that caused 8 of the 11 deaths in the accident.[14] Ultimately, this accident led to crashworthiness standards being set for passenger cars and fuel tank safety for locomotives.[15]

Current state[edit]

Locomotive leading passenger train into station
Amtrak NPCU 90219 leading the Blue Water into Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Metro-North F40PH-3C 4910 idles at Ridgewood Station.

Amtrak NPCU conversions[edit]

As Amtrak's F40PH fleet was replaced by newer GE Genesis-series locomotives, Amtrak converted a number of the retired units into baggage/cab cars. Colloquially known as "cabbages" (a portmanteau of "cab" and "baggage"), and officially known as Non-Powered Control Units (NPCUs), these units had their prime movers and traction motors removed and a large roll-up door installed in the side (allowing the former engine compartment to be used for baggage). NPCUs also differ from normal F40PHs by their lack of grills and rooftop fans, except for unit 406. The units, except 406, were renumbered into Amtrak's car-series numbers by adding "90" before the former locomotive number; the original F40PH number 200 became NPCU number 90200.

Six NPCUs numbered 90230, 90250-90253, and 90340 were converted for Amtrak Cascades service in the Pacific Northwest, were rebuilt without the roll-up doors on the other conversions. The Talgo sets on these trains have a dedicated baggage car, so these NPCUs are used as cab cars only.

In 2011, Amtrak F40PH 406 was removed from storage and refurbished for Amtrak's 40th-anniversary exhibit train in 2011 and 2012. It was converted to an NPCU to enable push-pull operation of the exhibit train, and an HEP generator was installed in the engine room to supply auxiliary electricity. Unlike other NPCUs, the 406 retains its original number and resembles an operational F40PH externally, as it retains its air intakes, radiator and dynamic brake grills, and its rooftop fans (three: one for the inert dynamic brakes and two for the radiators, one of which is for the HEP generator).

VIA Rebuilding[edit]

Passenger train rounding a bend, with snow-capped mountains in background
Rebuilt F40PH-2D leads, with an original unit following
Via Rail train with rebuilt F40PH-2D #6432 at Brampton, Ontario on Dixie Rd overpass, July 2011

In 2007, Via Rail awarded CAD Railway Industries a CAD $100 million contract to rebuild its F40PH-2 fleet.[16] The rebuild program completed in 2012, and included separate HEP generators, overhauled engines, a 3rd headlight addition, cab reconditioning, additional safety horns at the front, and repainting into the newer VIA scheme.[17] The pilot unit, 6400, was the only one rebuilt without a separate HEP unit (and was subsequently wrecked before being upgraded). All other rebuilt VIA F40's feature a bulge at the rear for the new separate HEP unit, which was built out over the rear walkway. The new unit can now be seen on the Canadian $10 bill (since November 7, 2013)


  • EMD F40PHR: An F40PH assembled using components from a traded-in EMD SDP40F locomotive. The locomotives had a larger fuel tank (1,800 US gallons (6,800 l; 1,500 imp gal)) and higher HEP output (800 kilowatts (1,100 hp)) than the stock F40PH.[18]
  • EMD F40PH-2: An F40PH with power output increased to 3,200 horsepower (2,400 kW).[19]
  • EMD F40PH-2D: An F40PH-2 with special customizations for operating in Canada.[19]
  • EMD F40PH-2C: An F40PH lengthened by 8 feet (2.4 m) to incorporate a separate Cummins HEP generator.[19][20]
  • EMD F40PH-2CAT: An F40PH lengthened to incorporate a separate Caterpillar HEP generator.[20]
  • EMD F40PHM-2: An F40PH-2 with a sloped cab similar to the EMD F59PHI. The streamlined appearance acquired the nickname "Winnebago." Metra's last 30 locomotives were built to this standard.[20]
  • M-K F40PHL-2: A remanufactured EMD GP40. Morrison-Knudsen built five for Tri-Rail in 1988.[10]
  • M-K F40PHM-2C
  • MPI F40PH-2C
  • MPI F40PH-3C
  • EMD F40PH-2M: The four locomotives for Speno were built to this standard. There is no turbocharger which limits power output to 2,000 horsepower (1,500 kW).[20]
  • EMD/VIA F40PH-3D: VIA's F40PH locomotive. Rebuilt by using all existing F40PH-2D locomotives. Classified as GPA-30H.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b McDonnell, Greg. Field Guide to Modern Diesel Locomotives. Kalmbach Books. 
  2. ^ Holland 2009, p. 57
  3. ^ Holland 2009, p. 58
  4. ^ Holland 2009, p. 59
  5. ^ Holland 2009, p. 60
  6. ^ a b Graham-White & Weil 1999, p. 56
  7. ^ Holland 2009, p. 59
  8. ^ Graham-White & Weil 1999, p. 56
  9. ^ Holland 2009, p. 61
  10. ^ a b c Graham-White & Weil 1999, p. 59
  11. ^ a b Holland 2009, p. 62
  12. ^ Graham-White & Weil 1999, p. 58
  13. ^ Graham-White & Weil 1999, p. 60
  14. ^ National Transportation Safety Board. "Collision and Derailment of Maryland Rail Commuter MARC Train 286 and National Railroad Passenger Corporation Amtrak Train 29 Near Silver Spring, Maryland on February 16, 1996" (PDF). Railroad Accident Report. NTSB. 
  15. ^ Phillips, Don; Sipress, Alan (May 11, 1999). "New Rules Set for Passenger Trains; U.S. Agency Aims to Reduce Damage in Accidents Like the Fiery 1996 MARC Crash". Washington Post  – via HighBeam (subscription required). Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  16. ^ "VIA Rail Canada and CAD Railway Industries Ltd. Sign $100 Million, 5-year Contract to Rebuild 53 F-40 Locomotives" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  17. ^ "Backgrounder:The locomotive rebuild program" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  18. ^ Holland 2009, p. 61
  19. ^ a b c Wilson 2009, p. 76
  20. ^ a b c d Graham-White & Weil 1999, p. 57


  • Graham-White, Sean; Weil, Lester (December 1999). "The little locomotive that did". Trains 59 (12): 52–61. 
  • Holland, Kevin J. (Spring–Summer 2009). "Amtrak's F40PH: From dark clouds, a silver lining". Railroad History (200): 56–65. 
  • Wilson, Jeff (2009). The Model Railroader's Guide to Diesel Locomotives. Waukesha, WI: Kalmbach Publishing. ISBN 978-0-89024-761-7. 

External links[edit]