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New Amtrak locomotives in rigorous testing

New Amtrak locomotives in rigorous testing

DOT's Transportation Technology Center puts American-made Cities Sprinter through its paces

In May, the first of Amtrak's new fleet of electric locomotives, called Cities Sprinters, rolled out of the Siemens plant in Sacramento. They were manufactured in America by Americans, and they featured parts and materials from more than 70 different American suppliers in 60 different U.S. cities. They are faster, more reliable, more sustainable, and easier to maintain  than the locomotives they'll replace.

And, at the DOT Transportation Technology Center (TTC) in Pueblo, Colorado, the Federal Railroad Administration is making sure that they are--first and foremost--safe.

Photo of Amtrak Cities Sprinter on test track as observers watch

Earlier this week, I joined Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman and Siemens U.S. Rail Systems President Michael Cahill at the TTC to get an update on the testing program and to observe a testing demonstration. Since the three of us are enthusiastic train fans--to say the least--it was an exciting day.

"We built and designed these to U.S. standards, which are some of the most stringent standards in the world when it comes to rolling stock in terms of safety, sustainability, and reliability," said Cahill.

As Amtrak's Boardman said, "These locomotives will be the new workhorses of the Amtrak fleet in the Northeast and they must meet our performance-based specifications and reliability needs so we can keep the region's people and economy moving."

The two locomotives at the TTC are undergoing tests for maximum speed, acceleration and braking, operating with Amtrak passenger coach cars attached, and overall performance capabilities. Engineers are also validating the on-board computer systems and software, as well as evaluating ride quality by measuring noise and vibrations. Additional tests will ensure the locomotive is operating and performing as designed and that it is ready to provide the reliable service Amtrak passengers expect.

But our number one priority is safety, and the testing regime demonstrates the extraordinary standards FRA requires manufacturers and railroads to meet when building passenger rail equipment.

We're not just testing Amtrak's new workhorses in Pueblo. A third locomotive will run field tests on the Northeast and Keystone Corridors this summer and be used to train Amtrak engineers and mechanical crews. And because we want to see how the Cities Sprinter performs in extreme heat and cold, a fourth will be tested in a special climate-controlled chamber.

Photo of F.R.A. Administrator Szabo standing near Cities Sprinter locomotive at the T.T.C.
FRA Administrator Szabo stands near Cities Sprinter locomotive at the TTC; photo courtesy Amtrak, Chuck Gomez

One in seven Americans lives along the Northeast Corridor, and as demand for passenger rail service continues to grow there and across the country, FRA will continue to ensure that rail equipment is safe, reliable, and efficient.

Joseph Szabo is Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

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I'm looking forward to seeing them on the corridor in action.
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