By Justin Franz
After a rough start to the winter, Amtrak is feeling more confident about its new Siemens ALC-42 Charger locomotives. So sure, in fact, that it plans on regularly putting the new locomotives on the point of the Coast Starlight starting this month.
The new long-distance locomotives first entered service a year ago on the Empire Builder and later on the City of New Orleans. But earlier this winter, the Chargers were beset with mechanical issues brought on by cold weather, causing numerous delays, especially on the Empire Builder. According to Kara Evanko, a spokesperson for Siemens Mobility, the locomotives were losing power during “unusually extreme circumstances where the locomotive experiences drastic changes in temperature.”
Evanko said the issue was caused by both software and hardware issues, but that Siemens had found a fix and it was being addressed. The software and hardware issues were able to be addressed on Amtrak property and spokesperson Marc Magliari said last week that the fixes were working.
Now, the Chargers will make an appearance on the Coast Starlight, starting this month. This would not be the first time one has been in a Coast Starlight consist — one Charger was trailing in a consist between Seattle and Portland a few weeks back — but officials say it should become a regular event going forward.
Besides the Empire Builder and City of New Orleans, the Chargers have also made appearances on crew familiarization runs east of New Orleans on the soon-to-open Gulf Coast route.
Amtrak has purchased 125 ALC-42 Chargers to replace its aging fleet of P42 locomotives.