Amtrak to Test GE Locomotives for Cascades Route

The Federal Railroad Administration is considering and taking comments on Amtrak's request for a waiver that will allow the company to use General Electric P32-8 and P40/42 locomotives on Talgo trains operating the Cascades Service route between Vancouver, British Columbia and Portland, Ore. Amtrak now operates Talgo trains -– articulating trains built in Spain that have a "tilt" feature allowing for safe travel at higher speeds around curves -– on BNSF tracks at speeds as high as 79 mph and a cant deficiency up to 6 inches.

Cant deficiency (explained here on Wikipedia and here by Interface Journal) is a measure of the centrifugal force exerted to the outside, more elevated rail as a train rounds a curve. The GE locomotives were static lean tested in 1991 and 1993, respectively, and meet the requirements of 49 CFR 213.57, Elevation in Curves, for 4 inches cant deficiency, and the tests indicated a maximum safe cant deficiency operation of up to 10 inches for the P40/42 locomotive and 8 inches for the P32-8, FRA said in its Federal Register notice last Friday. Amtrak recently demonstrated and received approval for 5 inch cant deficiency operation of these GE locomotives on its Northeast Corridor and Harrisburg, Pa. routes, according to the notice.

Amtrak plans to conduct two end-to-end test runs with Talgo trains between Portland and Blaine, Wash. to confirm results obtained during recent dynamic testing and to demonstrate safe dynamic performance of the locomotives at speeds in curves that generate up to 6 inches of cant deficiency; Amtrak has submitted a test plan for FRA approval that uses accelerometers on each locomotive to measure performance over the entire route at timetable speeds, FRA said.

Interested parties have 45 to submit written views, data, or comments. FRA said no public hearing is planned. The Washington State Department of Transportation's page on Talgo trains is available here.

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