CHICAGO – Amtrak's Empire Builder has a new look these days. The first two of what will become a 125-unit fleet of more energy-efficient locomotives began ferrying passengers between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest at the beginning of February. In media releases, the railroad touts its new ALC-42 locomotives as "made in the U.S. and cleaner, faster, and more fuel efficient than predecessors."

Artist Renderings of the new ALC-42 energy-efficient locomotive, which began service on Amtrak's Empire Builder route on February 8, 2022. (Amtrak Media)
Artist Renderings of the new ALC-42 energy-efficient locomotive, which began service on Amtrak's Empire Builder route on February 8, 2022. (Amtrak Media)
loading...

The ALC-42 is designed to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide by more than 89 percent and particulate matter by 95 percent, while consuming less fuel than the locomotives they'll replace. They're designed to be faster, too, with a top speed of 125 mph. The brightly painted red, white and blue engines are being built by Siemens Mobility in Sacramento, Calif., and are the first new locomotives Amtrak has purchased for its long-distance train services in the West since the early 1990s.

In a statement, Amtrak said it is paying for the new locomotives and supplemental multiyear maintenance support with about $850 million in funding set aside when the order was placed in 2019. The new locomotives will primarily replace the Amtrak P40 and P42 locomotives, some of which have been in service for more than 25 years on some state-sponsored routes but primarily on the Long Distance portion of the Amtrak National Network.

The first of the new locomotives, engines 301 and 302, began service on the Empire Builder route on February 8. These locomotives will eventually power trains used on Amtrak's other long-distance services: Auto Train (suburban Washington to suburban Orlando, Fla.), California Zephyr (Chicago to San Francisco Bay), Capitol Limited (Washington to Chicago), Cardinal (New York to Chicago), City of New Orleans (Chicago to New Orleans), Coast Starlight (Seattle to Los Angeles) Crescent (New York to New Orleans), Empire Builder (Chicago to Seattle/Portland), Lake Shore Limited (New York/Boston to Chicago), Palmetto (New York to Savannah, Ga.) Silver Star & Silver Meteor (New York to Miami), Southwest Chief (Chicago to Los Angeles), Sunset Limited (New Orleans to Los Angeles) and Texas Eagle (Chicago to San Antonio, Texas).