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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)
Nicknames "Screamer"
"Screaming Thunderbox"
"Zephyr" (F40PHM-2)
"Winnebago" (F40PHM-2) "Boombox"

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]


The F40PH was originally intended to haul short- to medium-length trains on Amtrak's shorter routes.[2] Soon after entering service it also began to replace the long-distance EMD SDP40F (Amtrak's first new locomotive model), which had a troubled reputation after reports of rough riding and several derailments blamed on its C-C trucks (which differed from EMD's freight C-C locomotives). The F40 was based on the EMD GP40-series freight locomotives, with a two-axle truck. (The term "F40" by itself can lead to confusion; the first locomotive with that designation was the F40C, a passenger C-C locomotive derived from the SD40-2, similar to the SDP40F but with an HEP generator.)[3]

Hundreds of F40PH units were built, and many can be found in use on passenger, tourist and freight railroads today, such as CSX (on business trains), the Grand Canyon Railway, the Panama Canal Railway, and the Algoma Central Railway. The F40PH was purchased by commuter railroads such as Metra, MBTA, Tri-Rail, Caltrain, NJ Transit and GO Transit; all but GO Transit still use these locomotives. After years of service, Amtrak's large F40PH fleet has been retired; the locomotives were stored, scrapped, sold or converted into non-powered control units after the purchase of new GE Genesis passenger locomotives during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The largest fleet of these locomotives now operates in the Chicago metropolitan area on the Metra system, totaling 117 units. Included in this fleet is the last F40PH built by EMD (as an F40PHM-2) in 1992, Metra #214. After Metra, Via Rail Canada has the second-largest fleet of F40PH-2s (54 units). The MBTA in Boston had 18 original-model "screamer" F40PHs numbered 1000-1012(built 1978) and 1013-1017(built 1980), which have all been retired. The MBTA still has several F40PH-2C and F40PHM-2C locomotives in service, built by EMD in 1987–88 numbered in the 1050-1075 series and MK in 1991 and 1993 numbered 1025-1036.

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 original 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. This 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.[4] Ultimately, this accident led to crashworthiness standards being set for passenger cars and fuel tank safety for locomotives.[5]


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

The F40PH has a turbocharged EMD 645E3 V16 cylinder, two-stroke, water-cooled diesel engine (prime mover) which develops 3,000 hp (2.2 MW) at 916 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. A standard F40PH has a gear ratio of 57:20, allowing 110 mph (177 km/h).

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).

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.

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 16-645E3 prime mover; from the head end to the train must be a constant frequency, and the prime mover had to turn at a constant 900 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.

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.

Current state[edit]

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—generally with mechanical problems limiting their value[citation needed]—into NPCUs cab cars. Colloquially known as "cabbages" (a portmanteau of "cab" and "baggage"), 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.

Five NPCUs, 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. Four NPCUs are in use on Amtrak's Downeaster service between Boston, Massachusetts, and Brunswick, Maine.

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).

Three NPCUs 90215, 90218 and 90225 are in use on Amtrak California routes as of 2013 or 2014.

NPCU 90208 was overhauled and repainted into the veterans scheme and returned to service on Veterans Day 2015.

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.[6] 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.[7] 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 F40PH
  • EMD F40PHR
  • EMD F40PH-2
  • CAD/VIA F40PH-2D
  • EMD F40PH-2C
  • EMD F40PH-2CAT
  • EMD F40PHM-2
  • M-K F40PHL-2
  • M-K F40PHM-2C
  • MPI F40PH-2C
  • MPI F40PH-3C


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b McDonnell, Greg. Field Guide to Modern Diesel Locomotives. Kalmbach Books. 
  2. ^ Sean Graham-White and Lester Weil (December 1999). "The little locomotive that did". Trains. p. 57. 
  3. ^ Pinkepank, Jerry A.; Marre, Louis A. (1979). Diesel Spotters Guide Update. Kalmbach Books. pp. 71–72, 74, 76–77. ISBN 0-89024-029-9. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ "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. 
  7. ^ "Backgrounder:The locomotive rebuild program" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-12-27. 

External links[edit]