By Aaron Adams
The Face of Amtrak’s Future… Amtrak’s future is arriving, both on prototype railroads and in HO scale. Bachmann released its Siemens SC-44 Charger at the end of 2020, shortly after the prototype locomotives entered service. This time they have done one better, and have released this new Charger variation, the ALC-42, just before Amtrak places their first few into revenue service. Perhaps Bachmann secretly has a time machine in their factory?
Amtrak’s fleet of General Electric P40DC and P42DC “Genesis” locomotives is rapidly approaching 25 years old, with the earliest units having been built in 1996, leading to the potential for reliability issues and increased maintenance costs. Amtrak accordingly turned to Siemens for new long-distance locomotives, a clear choice with EMD/Progress Rail and Wabtec (formerly GE transportation) not producing passenger locomotives in recent years or having poor options available. EMD/Progress Rail’s last attempt, the F125, did not gain additional customers after Metrolink’s order suffered from late delivery times and mechanical problems. An initial order for 75 ALC-42 Charger locomotives was placed in December 2018, and the first two units (Amtrak 301 and 302) entered revenue service on the Empire Builder in February 2022. Amtrak plans to phase in ALC-42s as motive power on all long-distance routes, and announced it plans to order more of these locomotives, likely displacing Amtrak’s current GE locomotives over the next several years. The ALC-42 shares the same basic design as the SC-44 Chargers used on state-funded Amtrak routes, with some changes to better suit long-distance service. Aside from the cosmetic differences, including a restyled, easily replaceable nose and lack of digital signboard and roof strobe lights, the ALC-42 has a larger sand and fuel capacity. Its Cummins QSK95 prime mover is derated to 4200 horsepower from the SC-44’s 4400 horsepower.
ABOVE: AMTK ALC-42 301 trails on Amtrak Cascades train 504 through Kent, Wash., on February 11, 2022. This locomotive was being sent north from Portland, after suffering PTC system issues during its first revenue run on the Empire Builder, for repairs at Amtrak’s coach yard in Seattle. — Aaron Adams photo
Day One to Year 50
Since the delivery of the first ALC-42 Chargers coincided with Amtrak’s 50th Anniversary in May 2021, Amtrak painted one unit, AMTK 301, in a special paint scheme to commemorate this event. The other five of the initial six locomotives are painted in Phase VI, which features a blue primary color with red and Platinum Mist accents and a dark blue roof. The remainder of the fleet will introduce Amtrak’s next fleet-wide paint scheme, Phase VII. The paint scheme applied to Amtrak 301 is based on a one-off scheme applied to a former Penn Central EMD E8A, Amtrak 4316. This E-unit was hastily repainted in this scheme for a press event on Amtrak’s first day of operation on May 1, 1971, even retaining Penn Central black as its primary color. Amtrak has designated this paint scheme as the “Day 1” livery.
ABOVE: A highlight of Bachmann’s Charger models is the excellent lighting features. In addition to front and rear lights, this view shows the illumination for the interior area near the back end of the unit (as per prototype). A printed interior section resides behind the clear window material providing an authentic look and unique feature for an HO model. Bachmann’s catalog includes Siemens’ ACS-64 electric locomotive (also offered with DCC and TCS WOWSound) in several Amtrak paint schemes and a SEPTA release.
A Model for the Future
While Bachmann might not have a time machine after all, the engineering behind this new model is impressive. Bachmann’s designers clearly were able to carry over the modular design of the prototype Siemens Charger to the tooling of their model, allowing for many accurate variations with a minimal number of changes. With VIA Rail taking delivery of a fleet of 32 of another Charger variant, the Siemens SC-42 Charger, over the next several years, and several more commuter operators also buying Chargers, this is likely only the beginning for these models.
Amtrak’s Half Century
For more Amtrak, a new hardcover book by David C. Warner and Bruce Goldberg, Fifty Years of Amtrak Trains, is new from White River Productions. This book covers Amtrak’s first half-century with more than 400 pictures across 256 pages.
See a preview of this new Bachmann HO-scale Amtrak locomotive on TrainWorld TV…
About the Author
Aaron Adams was born and raised in the Seattle area. He became interested in trains at a young age thanks to “Thomas the Tank Engine,” some close family friends who had a Lionel layout, and visits to local train shows. He received his first train set around the age of five, a Life-Like HO Union Pacific set, which would prove to be short lived. This eventually led to a serious interest in model railroading when he was 12 years old. Aaron primarily models modern-era Northwest railroading in HO scale, with a focus on BNSF and passenger trains. Due to the limitations of being a college student he does not have a permanent HO layout, but he enjoys building and detailing locomotives and rolling stock. He is also building a small N-scale layout based on the defunct Seattle & North Coast Railroad. He has been writing reviews for MRN since 2018. Aaron is currently majoring in business at a university in the Puget Sound region of Washington State, and is audio/visual technical director for a local church.