Story By: Sol Tucker
Photos By: Sol Tucker and Tom Biesiadny
When that saying all good things must come to a close comes around, well then, I guess you could say that the Amtrak AEM7 locomotive was one of those things. After 30 plus years of pulling hundreds of thousands of passengers from Washington to Boston, the iconic locomotive is lowering its pantograph and calling it quits, after the final new locomotive, the ACS 64, number 670, was delivered from Siemens this month. Locomotives 942 and 946 didn’t call it quits without a grand closing of sorts.
So what’s a retirement party without 476 of your closest friends and fans? Nothing, unless you have a special closing moment as Amtrak did this past Saturday with a special trip from Washington, D.C to Philadelphia with a stop at the Wilmington maintenance shops where the AEM7’s spent most of their lives when not on the road. Fans had the chance to see some of the locomotives replacing the 942 and the 946 used on this trip, but also some of the other locomotives that keep Amtrak running on a daily basis with a behind the scenes tour of their Wilmington facility.
What makes the AEM7 locomotive so special, is that it was essentially the replacement for the steam era of electric locomotives that dated back the storied Pennsylvania Railroad when it was initially tested as the replacement for the GG1 locomotive. What it later became, was the face of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, pulling many of the iconic trains such as the Silver Star, The Crescent and the Broadway Limited just to name a few.
For a few of us who have grown up watching and photographing these locomotives passing through suburbia of Washington, D.C, the time has come for them to have their final resting place, most of them eventually reincarnating as soda cans, we shall call the terminus in an era of railroading. Many things have changed over the years at Amtrak, but one thing that has never changed is their way of saying goodbye. One final chance to ride behind the locomotive that pulled so many of our trips up and down the Northeast Corridor. One final time that was a was a necessity for many and well worth it for us and everyone else who returned to D.C wondering where we will be when the next farewell trip occurs 34 years from now with the next generation of locomotives.
As we say goodbye to the fond memories of the AEM7 locomotive, we have a few that will remain in museums such as Strasburg and the Illinois Railway Museum. These will serve as the mementos of history that shaped all of the modern day tools that Amtrak uses each day to make travel safer and more efficient for its passenger rail network.