Amtrak’s AEM7 now a museum piece

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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The newest addition to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania’s extensive collection of historic U.S. locomotives and railcars is recently retired Amtrak AEM7 electric locomotive No. 915, which logged nearly 35 years of service on the Northeast Corridor.

“As Amtrak’s Cities Sprinter ACS-64 electric locomotives take to the rails, another class of locomotives, the AEM7, is being retired, passing into railroad history,” said Jeffrey Bliemeister, director of the Strasburg, Pa.-based museum. “The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania has been fortunate to be the recipient of significant railroad equipment donated by Amtrak over the years. Our newly acquired AEM7 No. 915, built in 1981, takes the place of Amtrak E60 No. 603 as our ‘youngest’ locomotive.” 

Fifty-four of the AEM7s, the design of which was based on the Rc4 built by ASEA (Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget, translated as General Swedish Electric Company), were produced from 1978 to 1988. Amtrak contracted with Electro-Motive Division (EMD, at the time a subsidiary of General Motors Corp.) to manufacture the AEM7. Philadelphia-based Budd Company manufactured the carbodies. Electrical, trucks and mechanical parts were sourced from ASEA in Sweden. The 7,000 hp “motors” (a term passed on from the Pennsylvania Railroad) measured 51 feet long and 12.5 feet high. Considered lightweight at 101 tons and capable of a 125-mph top speed, the dual-cab AEM7 became the mainstay of Northeast Corridor motive power. 

The first AEM7s bore the Amtrak Phase III livery unveiled in 1979—joined red, white and blue stripes of equal width—and became the face of a rebuilt and enhanced Northeast Corridor. “If the GG1 represented the initial electrification of the rail lines between New York and Washington and Philadelphia and Harrisburg, the AEM7 was a worthy successor for a new era,” the museum noted. “Today, as the locomotives are decommissioned, the AEM7 fleet has logged in excess of 200 million miles of service. Among railroad fans, the AEM7 is affectionately known as a ‘Swedish Meatball’ or a ‘toaster,’ due to its country of origin and compact, boxy design.” 

The late Chris Knapton, former AVP of communications at the AAR and later known as “The Voice of Metra” as well as “Metramouth” (a name he gave himself), famously said about the AEM-7 upon its introduction, “It doesn’t look like a locomotive. It looks like the box it came in.”

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania describes itself as “home to a world-class collection of more than 100 historic locomotives and railroad cars, a vast library and archives, a working restoration shop and an immersive education center.” The museum is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, with the support of the Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

Categories: High Performance, Intercity, Locomotives Tags: , ,