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Amtrak’s Metroliner, 1971-1981

Amtrak’s Metroliner, 1971-1981

Fred Klein, 2016

Amtrak took over most of America’s passenger trains in 1971. Among these were the electric multiple-unit cars designed to run premium service on the Northeast corridor between New York and Washington. The Metroliners were designed for high speeds up to 120 mph. The cars were built in 1967-1969 by the Budd Corporation for the Pennsylvania Railroad, which was merged into the Penn Central before the cars ever ran in revenue service. Amtrak took over the cars when the Penn Central went bankrupt. The premium, extra-fare service had both first-class and business class service designed to compete with the airlines. The cars became worn out and unreliable, and starting in 1980, Metroliner trains were replaced with Amfleet passenger cars (also built by Budd with a similar profile as the original Metroliner cars) and pulled by the new AEM-7 locomotives.


Each car had a control cab at one end and car pairs were run back-to-back. Typical trains had 6 cars, but 4 or 8 car trains could also be run. A typical 6-car train had 3 coaches, 2 snack cars and a parlor car. Externally, each of the car types looks the same with the same window pattern. Cars were painted in the phase I scheme, though some cars were rebuilt in the late 1970s with some electrical parts moved to the roof and painted in a phase II scheme with a large Amtrak on the front.


Bachmann made the Amtrak Metroliner cars in the early 1970s in both powered and unpowered versions, but the quality was so poor as to be nearly useless. Fortunately the Bachmann shell can be slightly modified and fit over a Kato motor, wheels and base from a Budd RDC car of the same length. This makes a smooth running train complete with directional lighting of white on the front and red on the rear.


An Amtrak Metroliner train in 1976.


A Metroliner train in August 1979. Amtrak corporate photo.


An Amtrak postcard from the early 1970s with Metroliner cars in the phase I paint scheme.



A Metroliner train of 6 cars



All six cars have a Bachmann Metroliner shell fitted to a Kato motor, wheels, base and couplers made for an RDC railcar.






Solomon, Brian, Amtrak, MBI Publishing, 2004.

Warner, David and Elbert Simon, Amtrak by the numbers, A comprehensive passenger car and motive power roster 1971-2011, White River Productions, 2011.