New Amtrak locomotives are making stops in Washington, which are part of Amtrak’s Midwest Fleet unveiled earlier this year.
“This is the long awaited new locomotive,” said Mark Wessels, member of the Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee. “If you look at the specs they are impressive — at $7 million a pop they should be impressive.”
During a report to the committee Monday, Wessels noted the “Midwest Charger,” manufactured by Siemens, Sacramento, Calif., was unveiled in August and is now operating on the Missouri River Runner route connecting St. Louis and Kansas City.
A total of 33 new locomotives were put into service in the Midwest states of Missouri, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin through the state transportation agencies. The fleet is branded as Amtrak Midwest. Siemens was awarded the $225 million contract in 2014 to build the locomotives.
“They are here and running — they are beauties,” Wessels said.
The diesel-electric locomotives, powered by a Cummins engine, pump out 4,400 horsepower and can reach top speeds of 125 miles per hour. There are Cummins facilities located in Missouri.
Additionally, Siemens touts their quieter locomotive as some of “the cleanest,” and in comparison to the Amtrak engines currently in service, the difference is significant; the faster-accelerating (and faster-braking) new models offer a 90 percent reduction in emissions and a 16 percent reduction in fuel consumption.
The locomotives meet the most recent federal rail safety regulations and feature better traction for improved performance.
According to Wessels, he has been in contact with Amtrak officials in Missouri who told him that whistle blowing near the Washington Train Depot will likely continue.
He explained that the whistles have been blowing at all hours of the day. Some of those alerts may be attributed to the work on the Highway 47 bridge over the Missouri River.
“There is suspicion that the bridge work could trigger that,” Wessels said.
“On and off we are going to have whistles downtown,” he added.
Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Area Engineer Judy Wagner noted that the whistles have gone off overnight when there is not any work being conducted on the bridge.
Bob Zick, who attended the transportation meeting, noted that sometimes the whistle is sounded by the conductor at his or her discretion.
“I’m assuming that’s what it is,” said Wagner.
Wessels told the committee that ridership was up 16 percent in the most recent quarter at the Washington Depot.
The quarter included August during the total solar eclipse.
“I am sure it has something to do with the huge groups we had during the eclipse,” Wessels said.