When 2018 came to a close, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) did more than say goodbye to the old year — the agency also bid farewell to its AEM-7 locomotives. But instead of simply pulling the locomotives out of service (which were in use for over 30 years on SEPTA’s commuter rail lines), SEPTA gave rail enthusiasts the opportunity to take one last excursion before the equipment is officially pulled from the Authority’s fleet.
“These locomotives have logged thousands of miles for us since the 1980s,” said SEPTA Assistant GM of Customer Experience and Advocacy Kim Scott Heinle. “We have a very robust and loyal rail enthusiast following and it was important for us to allow them to have one last AEM-7 ride.”
In early December, approximately 250 rail enthusiasts and the public boarded the special six-car train in Paoli, Pennsylvania — located west of Philadelphia along the Authority’s Paoli-Thorndale Line — to travel to downtown Philadelphia and back.
“Customers were taking photos and videos to commemorate the trip,” said Heinle. “It was a special day for passengers and for our employees, some of whom have been here since the locomotives first went into service.”
Mike Kish, maintenance manager at SEPTA’s Frazer Shop, is one of those employees. “I have been with SEPTA for over 32 years and I saw the AEM-7s arrive and have worked on them for most of my career,” he said. “Like all new equipment, the AEM-7s were a challenge in the beginning as we learned new systems and figured out how best to make repairs. As far as their retirement, it is somewhat bittersweet as I will miss the old locos but look forward to learning a whole new engine with the ACS-64s.”
In addition to offering the opportunity to pay tribute to the retiring locomotives, SEPTA invited rail enthusiasts to welcome its new Siemens ACS-64 electric locomotives. When the first of the 15 new locomotives went into revenue service in July 2018, the Authority held a dedication celebrating, complete with the locomotive #901 breaking through a banner. At its annual Rail Roadeo in October, SEPTA allowed rail enthusiasts to board a stationery train, even taking in the view from the engineer’s cabin.
“Even though there is a feeling of nostalgia about the retirement of the AEM-7s, we are even more excited to have the new, technologically-advanced locomotives in service,” said Heinle. “We are looking forward to them being a part of our fleet for many years to come."
Heather Redfern is the Public Information Manager for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.