Metra F59PHIs get ready for service

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F59PHI No. 84 shows its new lettering in late October.
CHICAGO – Metra’s newest locomotives are being prepped for service by the company’s mechanical forces. The agency has purchased 21 former Amtrak F59PHIs previously operated on Amtrak’s West Coast routes. The purchase eliminates the model from Amtrak’s roster and makes the Chicago commuter agency the largest operator of the locomotive model. Metra has touched up the paint, relettered, and renumbered the first of six to arrive in Chicago, with full repainting of the locomotives to come later.

The first locomotive assigned its new Metra road number, No. 84, also received minor electrical upgrades to bring it to Metra standards before being released for service. Metra is scheduled to being training their operating crews on the new locomotives in December. Due to the lack of cab signals on the F59PHI fleet, they will be based at Metra’s Western Avenue shops and work the Milwaukee, North Central and Heritage routes which do not require cab signal equipped locomotives.

The F59PHI is the second model Metra has purchased with EMDs 710 prime mover, following the acquisition of three F59s in 2014. The F59PHI was built between 1994 and 2001 and is the F59s successor which was built between 1988 and 1994. While both are essentially the same mechanically, the largest differences are the F59PHIs additional body panels, cab, and nose redesign to accommodate the isolated cab, giving the F59PHI a slightly longer overall length than the F59. The isolated cab design was found on many EMD freight and passenger locomotives, designed to create a quieter working environment for the operating crews.

The commuter agency paid $1.3 million each for the F59PHIs while it continues to look for additional new or rebuilt power. The agency in January issued a request for proposals for at least 12 new or 15 remanufactured locomotives with options for up to 30 additional new locomotives or 27 additional remanufactured locomotives, for a total of up to 42 new or remanufactured locomotives. That RFP is in the evaluation process.

The F59PHIs are being shuttled from California to Chicago on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief at the rate of one locomotive per train, which should place the balance of the order in Chicago before the end of November.
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