WSDOT SC-44 No. 1401 at King Street Station in Seattle
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The Siemens Charger is a family of diesel-electric passenger locomotive designed and manufactured by Siemens Mobility for the North American market. Currently, there are two models: the SCB-40, which was designed for Virgin Trains USA (at the time Brightline), and the SC-44, originally for Amtrak. The first production SC-44 unit was unveiled on March 26, 2016. The first SC-44 unit went into Amtrak revenue service on August 24, 2017, followed by the SCB-40, which inaugurated Brightline service on January 13, 2018.
The Charger is powered by a Cummins 16-cylinder QSK95 4-stroke high speed diesel engine, which is designed to meet EPA Tier IV emissions standards that took effect in 2015. Power output varies by model; the SCB-40, designed for Brightline, produces 4,000 hp (3,000 kW), while the SC-44 produces 4,400 hp (3,300 kW).
The top speed in service as per PRIIA specifications is 125 mph (201 km/h). The locomotive shares much of its overall design with Siemens' all-electric locomotives Vectron used in Europe and the ACS-64 used by Amtrak and SEPTA. Four Insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) power inverters carry electric current to each of the four AC traction motors. A static inverter off of the main prime mover supplies head-end power (HEP). The locomotive also features dynamic braking with regenerative capability, allowing the locomotive to divert power generated by dynamic braking away from the resistor grids to HEP and on-board locomotive auxiliary power demands.
In response to a 2013 Request for Information from Metro-North Railroad, Siemens said they might produce a dual-mode variant of the Charger with onboard energy storage for use by Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road, as well as intercity service, on Amtrak's Empire Corridor.
The first production SC-44 unit was unveiled on March 26, 2016. The first two Charger locomotives to leave Siemens' factory in Florin, California were transported to the Transportation Technology Center (TTCI) in Pueblo, Colorado in June 2016 and underwent testing of performance metrics such as acceleration and braking. The first Brightline SCB-40 locomotives were delivered in December 2016 to undergo testing in Florida.
In February 2017, Amtrak and WSDOT began testing one of the Midwest-bound locomotives for federal certification along the Cascades corridor in the Pacific Northwest. Test runs were conducted on the Midwest and Northern California routes in April and May. Testing at up to 135 miles per hour (217 km/h) at TTCI, on the corridors, and on the Northeast Corridor in September 2016 resulted in a federal certification for 125-mile-per-hour (201 km/h) operations.
Revenue testing on the Capitol Corridor began on May 25, 2017. During these tests - which also included the San Joaquins route - the trains operated with a second locomotive in case of failure. The SC-44 entered revenue testing on the Midwest routes in July, with solo revenue service beginning on a Hiawatha Service train on August 24, 2017. The Northern California units were formally accepted and approved for solo service on October 23, 2017. Revenue service on the Cascades route began in November 2017. On December 18, 2017, Washington state SC-44 #1402 was wrecked in a derailment of a Cascades train on the Point Defiance Bypass.
Brightline began revenue operations with its SCB-40 locomotives on January 13, 2018. The first Chargers for MARC began testing that month, and revenue service began on April 5, 2018. Pre-revenue testing began on the Pacific Surfliner in October 2018; revenue service began later that year.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), in conjunction with its counterparts in California, Michigan, Missouri and Washington, purchased 32 locomotives for corridor service operated by Amtrak in March 2014. Included in this $225 million order were options for an additional 75 corridor-configured locomotives and 150 locomotives configured for long distance service, with the long distance locomotive being fitted with a larger 2,200 US gallons (8,300 l; 1,800 imp gal) fuel tank as opposed to the 1,800 US gallons (6,800 l; 1,500 imp gal) tank on the corridor locomotive. California units have an aerodynamic spoiler on the rear roof that matches the height of bi-level California and Surfliner cars.
In 2015, IDOT ordered 12 additional units for use on the upgraded Lincoln Service corridor. California ordered 14 additional units in November 2015 for use on the Pacific Surfliner beginning in 2018, plus an additional 2 units in 2016 for the Northern California services. Several additional units were later added, for a total of 63 locomotives (32 base order and 39 option order): 22 for California, 8 for Washington state, and 33 for the Midwest states.
On December 21, 2018, Amtrak ordered an additional 75 Chargers with options for up to 100 more to replace the aging GE Genesis on long-distance services. The first of these locomotives will enter service in 2021, with the order completed in 2024.
MARC announced in August 2015 that it was seeking $58 million to purchase eight locomotives to replace their aging electric powered AEM-7 units, with deliveries planned for late 2017. The purchase was approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works on September 16, 2015. The MARC order uses part of the Amtrak state-corridor options. The first MARC Charger was shipped from the Siemens factory in early December 2017, and began testing in mid-January 2018.
Virgin Trains USA
In September 2014, Virgin Trains USA, then named Brightline, purchased ten SCB-40 locomotives with options for an additional eleven. The locomotives are used in pairs, bookending four passenger cars (expandable to seven) between MiamiCentral and Brightline West Palm Beach station, with a future expansion planned to Orlando International Airport Intermodal Terminal. The Brightline locomotives are built with a streamlined front end, concealing the front coupler behind doors, and produce a maximum of 4,000 hp (3,000 kW) instead of the 4,400 hp (3,300 kW) on the SC-44.
Altamont Corridor Express
In June 2018, the North County Transit District Board of Directors approved the purchase of five Chargers for its San Diego-area COASTER commuter rail service. Deliveries are expected to begin in August 2020. In 2019, the Board approved the purchase of two additional Chargers (pending funding) to allow increased service levels.
VIA Rail Canada
Possible future orders
In July 2018, Metro-North Rail Commuter Council’s vice chairman announced that the agency is considering purchasing 15 SC-44 locomotives to replace the current fleet of locomotives for the Port Jervis Line. Chargers are planned (but have not been purchased) for the Northern Lights Express, a proposed higher-speed passenger service in Minnesota.
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