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Amtrak’s Metroliner, 1981-2006

Amtrak’s Metroliner, 1981-2006

Fred Klein, 2016

Amtrak took over most of America’s passenger trains in 1971. The Metroliner trains ran as a premium service on the Northeast corridor between New York and Washington. The Metroliners were designed for high speeds up to 120 mph. By 1981 the original electric self-powered Metroliner cars were replaced with Amfleet cars pulled by electric locomotives. The Amfleet cars introduced in the later 1970s were also built by the Budd Corporation with a similar curved profile as the Metroliner cars. Amfleet cars had the advantage of being able to run on Amtrak trains all over the country, even in old restrictive tunnels, and mostly in the east. The Amfleet cars came in several versions, and except for the café cars with a windowless center section, they appeared the same externally. Short distance coaches had 84 or 72 seats (62 in business class), long distance coaches had 60 seats, and club/parlor cars had 18 club and 23 coach seats with a small snack bar. The Amfleet I cars (2 vestibules, introduced in 1975) were mostly used on short distance regional trains, and the Amfleet II cars (1 vestibule, introduced in 1981-3) were mostly used on long distance trains. In 2000, electric service extended north of New York to Boston permitting trains to run through without a locomotive change.


Starting in 1980, trains were pulled by the new General Motors AEM-7 locomotives, which had a cab at both ends making it easier to turn trains at terminals as before. In the mid 2000’s the AEM-7s were replaced by modern Siemens ACS-64 locomotives. In the early 2000s the NE corridor Metroliner trains were renamed Northeast Regional trains to distinguish themselves from the premium and faster Acela trains on the same route.


There is no model of the AEM-7 locomotive in N scale, but Kato made a model of a similar Japanese prototype locomotive (JNR E51A) and Con-cor painted it in Amtrak phase II colors and released it in the 1980s. That is the model I use on this Metroliner train to represent what 1980s era trains looked like. Prototypical models of Amfleet cars are made by Kato and Bachmann.


An Amtrak Metroliner crosses the Susquehanna River at Havre de Grace MD on Feb 6, 1991. The AEM7 locomotive leads a string of Amfleet I cars (2 doors) in phase III paint. Alex Mayes photo from page 69 of Warner  and Simon’s Amtrak by the numbers.


A 4-car Metroliner train of Amfleet II cars (one door) in the 1980s.


An Amtrak AEM7 locomotive with a Metroliner train in the phase III paint scheme.



A Metroliner train in the 1980s


The locomotive is a Japanese prototype E51A that superficially resembles an electric AEM-7 as used by Amtrak in the 1980s. Following are three Amfleet II coaches made by Kato in phase III paint. Strictly these were more likely long distance coaches. Kato may release their new (2016) Amfleet I coach in phase III paint but it is not available as of this writing.


Next is an Amfleet II lounge-café car in phase III paint, followed by another Amfleet II coach. Both are Kato models. The last two cars are Bachmann models of Amfleet I (2 vestibules) coaches. Note the slightly taller windows of the Amfleet II cars than the Amfleet I cars, probably reflecting better visibility on long distance rural routes. The Bachmann cars were issued with Rapido couplers, and body mounting Microtrains couplers was the best way to make a compatible train. The Bachmann cars have bright internal lights, bright red end lights, and high-friction electrical pickups. I found that using Bachmann Amfleet cars requires removing one of the pickups to lower the friction, limiting the number of cars in a train, and perhaps adding extra power to haul a high friction train. These Bachmann cars are the later more finely tooled model: the early Amfleet Bachmann model from the 1970s is a crudely modeled, extremely poor runner. See the page on Amtrak’s Lakeshore Limited for more modeling notes comparing Kato and Bachmann amfleet cars.






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.