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Amtrak HEP Locomotives

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This page was last updated on November 16, 2011.

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Although not equipped with HEP, the SDP40F locomotive was the first locomotive designed specifically for Amtrak service.

SDP40F locomotives (with steam-heat only) were delivered in June 1973 through August 1974; total fleet of 150 locomotives (AMTK 500-649). (Wikipedia) (photos at Railpictures.net) (photos at RRPictureArchives.net)

The following comes from Evan Werkema's web site:

Designed and built by EMD between June 1973 and August 1974, the 150 SDP40F's were intended to replace the rag-tag assortment of none-too-healthy E and F units the passenger carrier had acquired from the freight railroads in 1971. Mechanically, the SDP40F was essentially an SD40-2, with a 16-cylinder 645E3 engine rated at 3000 hp. The locomotive was considerably longer than an SD40-2 (72 feet 4 inches versus 68 feet 10 inches) due to a large steam generator section at the rear of the carbody that held a pair of skid-mounted steam generators. The SDP40F was also considerably heavier than an SD40-2. The underbody tank was partitioned to hold both fuel and water. An auxiliary water tank was also installed above the frame in the engine room. The SDP40F utilized a unique hollow bolster version of EMD's standard HT-C truck.

Several derailments on Burlington Northern, Chessie System, L&N and other roads were attributed to the locomotives. In several cases, the derailments occurred on curves of 2 degrees or more at high speed, and began either with a trailing SDP40F or the first baggage car behind the locomotives derailing. Freight railroads began to ban the locomotives from their property, and in 1977 the FRA imposed a nationwide speed restriction for the SDP40F's of 40 mph through curves of 2 degrees or more.

The SDP40F's were studied extensively. The yawing tendency of the hollow-bolster HT-C, the sloshing water in the high-mounted internal tank, unfavorable dynamic interactions with older baggage cars, and other factors were examined, but the source of the locomotives' problem was never pinned down conclusively. By 1977, Amtrak had had enough, and the decision was made to trade the SDP40F's in on new F40PH locomotives. The SDP40F's were phased out over the next several years. Not surprisingly, one of the last trains that regularly used SDP40F's was the Southwest Limited, where the locomotives had experienced few problems. The SDP40F locomototives remained in service until mid April 1981.

By 1984, what few SDP40F's remained on Amtrak had been stored or reduced to work train service. That year, an unusual locomotive swap was worked out between Amtrak and Santa Fe. The passenger carrier was in need of switchers to replace an aging fleet of Alcos and early EMD's, and Santa Fe just happened to be selling off its 1500 hp CF7's and 1200 hp SSB1200's. Amtrak has never enjoyed a generous capital budget, but in 1984 it did have several SDP40F's it no longer needed or wanted. Carbody aside, an SDP40F is essentially an SD40-2, the most popular freight locomotive ever built in the US, and in fact the SDP40F's had been built with the idea that if Amtrak failed, the locomotives could be sold to freight railroads. In September 1984, a deal was struck that gave Amtrak 25 CF7's and 18 SSB1200's from Santa Fe in exchange for 18 SDP40F's.

Amtrak's SDP40F locomotive was intended to replace the large fleet of E and F units the company had acquired as part of its startup in May 1971. Although the locomotive was designed to receive Head End Electric power in the future, the SDP40Fs were delivered with two steam generators, because of the large fleet of steam-heated cars being used by the passenger railroad.

As part of the planned later upgrade, the SDP40Fs were equipped with HEP pass-through cabling. As the HEP-equipped Superliner cars entered service beginning in February 1979 (long distance service began in October 1979), the railroad found that the pass-through cabling was too small.

In 1980, as part of a heavy overhaul, 21 of the 600-class locomotives received heavier HEP cabling. These 21 locomotives were the only SDP40Fs to receive Amtrak's Phase III paint scheme. These rebuilt SDP40F's were used on Superliner-equipped trains trailing the F40PH's that were providing the head end power. Photos show these F40PH-SDP40F power sets on the Southwest Chief for a brief time during April 1981.

(The 500-539 series got a Class C overhaul and repaint into the Phase II scheme at ICG's Paducah Shops in 1977.)

Amtrak originally intended the SDP40F as its universal long-distance locomotive. The later P30CH's were the first HEP-equipped units Amtrak bought, and they were initially matched with strings of new HEP Amfleet cars. The combination of the sluggish performance of the P30CH, and the SDP40F's derailment problems soured Amtrak on further six-axle power, and the four-axle F40PH became the favored locomotive.

Amtrak HEP-equipped Locomotives

The following information is just a brief summary of each type of locomotive equipped with Head End Power. Each entry has a link to a Wikipedia article, and links to photographs.


P30CH locomotives were delivered in August 1975 through January 1976; total fleet of 25 locomotives (AMTK 700-724); ordered in 1974; equipped with separate engine-generator sets for HEP. (Wikipedia) (photos at Railpictures.net) (photos at RRPictureArchives.net)

Amtrak apparently planned that its new P30CH locomotives would haul the long distance trains and the F40s would do the rest (as shown in the first Superliner ads), which is why the first order of F40s had small fuel tanks.


E60 electric locomotives were delivered in November 1975 through March 1976; total fleet of 26 locomotives, seven E60CP units (AMTK 950-956) with steam generators for older passenger equipment, and 19 E60CH units (AMTK 957-975) equipped with HEP capability for the Amfleet and rebuilt Heritage Fleet equipment. (Wikipedia) (photos at Railpictures.net) (photos at RRPictureArchives.net)


F40PH locomotives were delivered in 15 separate groups in March 1976 through December 1987; total fleet of 210 locomotives (AMTK 200-409) (Wikipedia) (photos at Railpictures.net) (photos at RRPictureArchives.net)


Dash 8-32BWH (also known as P32-8WH or B32-8WH) locomotives were delivered in December 1991; total fleet of 20 locomotives (AMTK 500-519) (Wikipedia) (photos at Railpictures.net) (photos at RRPictureArchives.net)


AMD-103 Genesis locomotives (also known as P40DC, or Dash 8-40BP) were delivered in March through December 1993; total fleet of 44 locomotives (AMTK 800-843) (Wikipedia) (photos at Railpictures.net) (photos at RRPictureArchives.net)


P32AC-DM Genesis locomotives were delivered in two groups, AMTK 700-709 in April through June 1995, and AMTK 710-717 in January through March 1998; intended to replace the former New Haven FL9 locomotives. (Wikipedia) (photos at Railpictures.net) (photos at RRPictureArchives.net)


P42DC Genesis locomotives were delivered in two groups, AMTK 1-120 in August 1996 through September 1997, and AMTK 121-207 in August 2000 through October 2001; total fleet of 207 locomotives (Wikipedia) (photos at Railpictures.net) (photos at RRPictureArchives.net)