Heritage Trifecta

Posted by George Hamlin
on Sunday, October 17, 2021

Special paint schemes on locomotives are generally popular, particularly if they are part of a series. On the occasion of its fortieth anniversary in 2011, Amtrak produced unique liveries on four of its P42 General Electric diesels (as well as a single P40, the 42s’ immediate predecessor in the “Genesis” locomotive line) commemorating what are commonly described as ‘phases’, beginning with the original “Bloody Nose/Pointless Arrow” scheme. Subsequently, the locomotive painted in the Phase 2 paint was replaced recently when the locomotive originally bearing that paint scheme was no longer serviceable.

Now, of course, it’s a decade later, and in 2021, Amtrak developed newer special paint schemes to honor its fiftieth birthday. Five of these adorn P42s, while the sixth, on a new Siemens ALC-42 “Charger”, depicts the very first, interim Amtrak paint scheme that was used on a single Penn Central EMD E8 locomotive for a brief time after Amtrak’s inception, and before the adoption of Phase 1 paint, which many of the railroad’s second-hand E units eventually utilized.

The other five range from a relatively bland current (Phase 5) scheme bearing “50 Years” titles in gold and blue, to the exotic “Midnight Blue” scheme on locomotive 100, and also include a reprise of the Phase 1 (unit 161); Phase 6, with a blue body and red on the top of the cab and nose; and finally, the Phase 3 paint scheme applied initially to Amtrak’s P32 hood units when they were new.

This past week (October 11-15), it became apparent that the majority of these units (with the exception of the 301, the “Day One” livery) were in the Washington, DC area.  This culminated in a parade of five (four new, and the replacement Phase 2) ‘specials’ passing southward through Alexandria, Virginia on Wednesday afternoon and evening October 13, for those lucky enough to have been there to witness the event.

Since all of them were destined only as far south as other points in Virginia (one to Roanoke, and the other four heading for Richmond, with two of those overnighting in Norfolk, and one in Newport News) they would be returning to Washington the following morning.This included unit 46, which thus far had eluded both me and my camera, which suggested that it might be a good idea to get up earlier than usual to see the veritable parade of these locomotives on the former RF&P (Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac) on Thursday morning.  Weekdays, there are four “Northeast Regional” departures from Richmond to Washington and points beyond in the Northeast Corridor between early and late morning; on October 14, all of these would have a special/heritage unit on the point. Since each is typically powered by a single locomotive, there generally isn’t a need to worry about whether the ‘special’ will be leading.

Virginia’s Leesylvania State Park, between Woodbridge and Quantico, in particular the photogenic concrete bridge over Powells Creek, was chosen as the location, since it offered good morning lighting (and thankfully, the predicted ‘partly-cloudy’ weather forecast was overly conservative), and the chance for a little variety in locations and camera angles.

NOVA’s (Northern Virginia; generally not considered to be part of the “real” Old Dominion, at least by those living elsewhere in the state) infamous traffic prevented getting a look at the 160 (Phase 3) on train 86, the first northbound Regional from Richmond, but not long after my arrival in the park, I was able to (using the technical photographic terminology) capture unit 46 on train 174, coming from Newport News (top photo). 

Next up was the 108 on train 84, which produced the opportunity for multiple shots.


Finally, the 130 (Phase 2 replacement) on train 94, both of the latter runs originating in Norfolk. 


Enjoy the photos; I enjoyed having the opportunity to get them. Oh, and the morning’s final Virginia Railway Express commuter train, two other Amtrak’s (trains 67 and 89) and three southbound CSX freights helped to pass the time, as well.

(Photos by George W. Hamlin)

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