Final part of the Budd Metroliner pack – jump to the previous part.
“Phase I” livery on the left and “Phase II” for rebuilt cars on the right.
All the necessary dependencies are either included in the package or are avaible on the DLS. Dependencies that are not mine are property of their respective authors.
Upon it’s formation in May 1971, Amtrak inherited all 50 Metroliner cars from Penn Central, keeping them in service depsite their reliability problems. Later that year, Amtrak finally also acquired the further 11 cars originally purchased by SEPTA for the Keystone Corridor, wich had been refused by Penn Central and thus never began regular services with the latter.
These additional 11 cars were put in service on the North-East Corridor, supplementing the existing 50 “original order” cars, increasing the frequency of the Metroliner service to 12 daily roundtrips. However, due to the various issues with the trains, and the lacklustre track condition, the FRA enacted yet another speed limitation to Metroliner trains, bringing their maximium speed down to 100 mph (160 Km/h).
Due to the constant faults and failures of these trains, Amtrak briefly considered replacing the Metroliner sets with locomotive-hauled rolling stock; however this idea was quickly shelved as the Metroliners were the only new piece of rolling stock Amtrak had in it’s fleet.
After an initial transitional period, where Metroliner sets kept their PRR livery with the addition of provsional “Amtrak” sticker logos, these trains began to be painted in Amtrak’s Phase I livery.
Depsite all the issues with the rolling stock, Metroliner services were a major success, quickly becoming one of Amtrak’s very few profitable services. Two years after the Amtrak takeover, it was estimated that around 50% of Metroliner passengers had switched from air and car travel to trains, thanks to their comfort and convenience.
Most of the issues Metroliner sets were having were due to faulty and unreliable electrical equipment, while the stainless steel bodyshells were very sound and offered a good level of interior comfort, compared to the ageing passenger cars that Amtrak had inherited (the “newest” units in the roster dated back to the late 1950s at best), therefore in 1973 Amtrak placed an order to the Budd Company for 57 passenger cars, nicknamed “Amfleet” derived from the Metroliners’ stainless steel bodyshell. The “Amfleets” were a major success, with Amtrak placing many subsequent order. In the end, over six hundred cars were manufactured by Budd over a 10-year period, from 1973 to 1983.
In February 1972, Amtrak sent one Wesinghouse-equipped Metroliner car to General Electric’s Plant in Eire, Pennsylvania, as part of an experimental reconstruction program that was intended to increase the reliability of Metroliner trains. By November 1972 the rebuilt cars were ready, and fetaured numerous improvements. The most evident one was the addition of an “hump” on the roof of the cars, wich housed the electrical braking resistors, part of the traction control and cooling air intakes, wich had been relocated from under the car body, where the air intakes often “sucked in” snow and dirt, wich often led to short-circuits. Altough costly, at half-a-milion dollars per car (50 000 dollars more than the cost of purchasing a new car!), the reconstruction program was an overall success, with reliability being greatly improved, and maintainance costs halved. The rebuilt cars were tested to a maximium speed of 150 mph (240 Km/h), however they were limited to 130 mph (210 Km/h) in regular service, due to FRA restrictions (still caused by the lacklustre track conditions of the NEC). Rebuilt Metroliner cars were fitted in Amtrak’s Phase II livery.
Amtrak originally planned to rebuild all Metroliner cars by 1976, and in the meantime, un-rebuilt cars were to undergo an extensive repair program, however due to budget issues, few rebuilds were actually carried out, and even fewer repairs were made. Out-of-service rates, depsite not being as high as during Penn Central times, were still an issue, ranging around 27,5%. Due to the large number of out-of-service cars, in February 1976 Amtrak was forced to cut Metroliner services from 15 to 13 roundtrips per day, and on the remaining services, Metroliner trains operated with far fewer cars than needed, often leading to overcrowding.
In 1976 plans to purchase an additional 118 Metroliner cars were made, under the name “Metroliner II”, however, due to a lack of funding and the terrible reputation of the existing sets, the order was initially reduced to 50 cars and later outright abandoned. Later that same year, to replace the decrepit and outdated 1930s GG1 electric locomotives, and to supplement the GE E60s, wich were unsuitable for high-speed services, Amtrak decided to import two of the then most advanced european electric locomotives: the swedish SJ Class RC4 unit 1166 and the french SNCF class CC21000 unit 3, wich were renumbered to X995 and X996 respectively. Due to the subpar track condition, wich took a toll on the fine-tuned suspensions of the french X996, Amtrak favoured the swedish X995, selecting it as base for it’s next class of electric locomotives.
During testing, with much surprise from Amtrak technicians, X996 was able to fully meet a Metroliner schedule; thanks to this result, Amtrak’s brass began to seriously consider the replacement of the troubled Metroliner sets with locomotive-hauled stock.
When testing of the AEM-7 electric locomtotives (the license-produced version of the Class RC4 electric locomotive) began in the late 1970s, it was found that on test runs, locomotive-hauled stock had a far superior on-time performance than Metroliner electric multiple units. AEM-7s locomotives began revenue service on the 9th of May 1980, with the first unit, no.901, hauling a Metroliner service between Washington DC and New York. By that year, rebuilt Metroliners covered six out of 14 Metroliner service roundtrips, and due to the introduction of the cheaper and more reliable AEM-7s, the reconstruction program was cancelled for the non-rebuilt units.
With the entry into service of more and more AEM-7 locomotives, Metroliner sets were progressively withdrawn fron the North-East Corridor and placed in storage. The last non-rebuilt Metroliner set was withdrawn from service on the 1st of April 1981 and on the 23rd of October 1981, a Metroliner set ran a Metroliner service for the very last time.
After their withdrawal from the NEC, some rebuilt units were deployed to the Keystone Corridor, however by the mid-1980s reliability problems were so persistent that in 1988 Amtrak decided to have those sets towed by AEM-7s, before outright replacing them with conventional passenger cars a few years later.
By the late 1980s Amtrak had a huge surplus of Metroliner cars that could not move on their own, but were still mechanically sound and in good overall shape, thus Amtrak decided to convert 23 of them to cab cars for usage on push-pull services both in the North-East and on the West Coast. Three more units were converted to track inspection cars and service cars, and another ten were converted to “straight” coaches for Michigan Corridor services, nicknamed “Michigan Coaches”.
The remaining unmodified Metroliner sets were all stored and later scrapped between 2003 and 2011, with the exception of car no.860, an unrebuilt snack bar coach that has been saved and it’s now on display (painted in the PRR-era livery) at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
With the introduction of Acela Express services in 2000, the Metroliner service lost it’s status as Amtrak’s fastest train, being gradually relegated to less important workings before being replaced altogheter in 2006 by Northeast Regional services.