Amtrak unveils new Tier IV locomotive, newly refreshed passenger cars

June 17, 2021
Amtrak officials gathered at Chicago Union Station to reveal the refreshed railcar interiors and improved soft goods, as well as display the newest Amtrak locomotive to go into nationwide service.

Amtrak officials gathered at Chicago Union Station June 15 to unveil several upgrades to its long-distance service offering, including the first of the newly upgraded interiors of its bi-level Superliner fleet, as well as its newest American-made diesel-electric locomotive.  

This is the first of 400 Superliner cars that will be refreshed and the first of 75 new Tier IV locomotives.  

Enhanced passenger experience 

Upgrades were made to the coach, sleeping and sightseer longue cars and aim to provide an improved, modernized customer experience. Riders in the coach section and in the sightseer lounge cars will see refurbished seat cushions with more eye-catching details, new drapes and new carpets, similar to updates made on the Acela fleet.  

The sleeper cars were also refreshed with new carpet, new curtains and new seats, as well as updated toiletries, bedding, towels and linens that were successfully tested on Amtrak services in California.  

Among the new, Amtrak is also bringing back the nostalgia of how dining on the train used to be with the reintroduction of table linens, fresh flowers, China dishware and real cutlery, as well as a reimagined menu. 

The menu includes breakfast, lunch and a three-course dinner, with all made-to-order food. Menu items will include Amtrak’s signature French toast, flat iron steak and grilled chicken Caesar salad and more. When dining, riders will have the choice between communal style dining or private dining. 

The reimagined dining service will begin June 23 for riders in sleeper cars on the California Zephyr, the Coast Starlight, the Empire Builder, the Southwest Chief, the Sunset Limited and the western portion of the Texas Eagle. The plan is to eventually expand the dining service to coach riders after an initial evaluation period that will look at the logistics of how to do so. This will be the first reintroduction of the dining service on the six western routes that had to suspend the service due to the pandemic.  

The new Superliners will go into the equipment pool and will be used on the Empire Builder, the California Zephyr, the Coast Starlight, the Southwest Chief, the Texas Eagle, the Sunset Limited, the Illini Saluki, the City of New Orleans, Capitol Limited and the Auto Train. 

Low-emission locomotives 

The ALC-42 locomotive is a diesel-electric locomotive developed by Amtrak and made by Siemens. While the locomotive was manufactured and assembled in Sacramento, Calif., the engine was manufactured at the Cummins plant in Indiana.

This will be Amtrak’s first Tier IV locomotive to enter service on its long-distance routes. Amtrak has had previous experience with Tier IV with its State Chargers, which served as the foundation for this new locomotive, explains Devon Parsons, a senior manager in Mechanical Engineering at Amtrak. 

The new locomotives will head to the Northeast to complete two to three months of conditioning and testing and are expected to enter revenue service this fall. The ALC-42’s will enter service on the eastern seaboard on the non-electrified routes and initially travel as far west as Chicago and New Orleans. 

Parsons added that as the new locomotives make their debut, Amtrak will work with Siemens as part of its long-term service agreement that includes technical support materials such as training, onsite support, material delivery and more. Amtrak is also working this summer to bring the rest of its mechanical facilities up to speed that haven’t had exposure to the State Chargers.  

All of these upgrades come as Amtrak restores service to pre-pandemic levels. In March, Amtrak announced plans to fully restored daily service for 12 long distance routes following pandemic-related schedule reductions in 2020. The three-phased approach began in late May with the final routes restored in June. 

About the Author

Megan Perrero | Associate Editor

Megan Perrero is an award-winning B2B journalist. She is the associate editor of Mass Transit magazine where she assists with developing the newsletters and social media posts, along with the online and print content. She is currently a board member for Latinos in Transit and serves on the APTA Marketing and Communications Committee. She’s based out of Chicago, Ill.

Prior to joining the team, Perrero gained experience covering the manufacturing and processing food and beverage industry, the agriculture industry and the library industry.

Perrero is a Columbia College Chicago alumna where she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a concentration in magazine writing and a minor in public relations.