Monday, December 22, 2008

55 MPH - The Double Nickel!

Amtrak 538, Vancouver Washington, 1983. By now I was totally removed from “railroading” as a hobby. I was deeply involved in working on a business plan to establish a new business.

As you may recall, the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act of 1974 was signed into law by another doofus serving as president, which made interstate freeway travel at a maximum speed of 55 mph suffering beyond description!

With my folks living in Olympia, my former wife and I did the I-5 from Vancouver numerous times a year. You may recall (if you were driving back then) that after about a half hour of anguish driving on a freeway at 55 mph, you swore you could get out of your motor vehicle and walk faster!

I recall passing a double’s – it took 10 minutes to creep by him. Most drivers in those days were reduced to hideous monsters, with whom you did not want to make eye contact!

To avoid the torment, my former wife and I decided to take the train from Vancouver to Olympia for a family reunion. While waiting for our northbound connection, this SDP40F came churning southbound, and the negative for this photo has laid dormant for years. I never even made a print of it ‘till lately.

As I understand it, there were some 150 units involved in the transition to Amtrak. They were plagued by stability problems resulting in more than a dozen derailments at speed – not good for a passenger locomotive! The culprit seemed to be in the so-called “hollow bolster” wheel sets and additional water tanks installed to support a steam generator boiler. Despite imposing 40 mph speed restrictions on certain curvatures, studies by the Federal Railway Administration were inconclusive.

And so these units were parted out to become F40PHR’s with this unit being renumbered Amtrak 369. I’m not sure how long it was until these units became history. I do know one of them ended up in the Minesota Transportation Muesum.

2 Comments - Click here:

The Old Fart said...

I don't know if I'd be able to keep it at 55 mph or 90 kph,. If I am correct the 55 mph has been repeeled.

A Merry Christmas is wished for you Robert.

Oil-Electric said...

Thank you my friend! When we gonna see some "new" old photos! Robert.

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