Amtrak West introduces the new F59PHI locomotive! The F59PHI locomotive #450 arrived into Los Angeles deadhead on train #3, The Southwest Chief, on Friday, May 15, 1998. The F59PHI will be used on various Amtrak West routes including the San Diegans, the Pacific Northwest and the new Las Vegas service.
The F59PHI locomotive #450 began service on Wednesday, May 27, 1998 on southbound San Diegan Train #568 and was seen again on northbound San Diegan Train #575.
Another F59PHI, locomotive #451 began service in June of 1998. I first saw it in service on northbound San Diegan Train #577 at 12:36pm on Wednesday, June 10, 1998. However, I was not in the office for the last few days. I believe it arrived into Los Angeles last week and may have started service anytime over the last week. I saw both new F59PHIs go by the Fullerton Santa Fe Depot today.
Current status: #450, #451, #453, #454, and #458 are now all in service on the Amtrak San Diegans. #457 arrived on the westbound Amtrak Southwest Chief on Thursday, September 10, 1998 and will probably be in service this week. #452 is still at the factory with computer problems. The other F59PHIs are also reported to have computer problems, but are in service anyway. My guess is once they find a solution to the computer problem with #452, they will probably apply it to the other F59PHIs.
This story started on Tuesday, May 12, 1998. We got a call that the new Amtrak F59PHI locomotives should start to arrive soon and that the first of them might already have arrived that morning on the westbound Amtrak Southwest Chief, train #4. Our videocamera was not turned on that morning, so we weren't able to look at a playback. The webcam was operating at that time, but we do not save the video from the webcam.
To make sure I didn't miss it again if they started to arrive on Wednesday, I came into the TrainWeb office about 5am and started our video recorder. I wasn't able to use the timer to automatically start the recording as a recording was already in progress when I left the office the night before.
As it turned out, the F59PHIs did not start to arrive until Friday. The Wednesday morning tape did show something unusual, however. The westbound Southwest Chief was bringing in another remodeled Pacific Parlour Car for the Coast Starlight!
I should have set up the video recorder to automatically start on Friday morning, but I didn't. I did, however, plan to arrive at the Fullerton station early and take both video and still shots. The Amtrak Reservations and Arrival Status Web Site indicated the train was running about 30 minutes late.
When I drove my car into the Fullerton parking lot, I thought I still had a few minutes, but the train pulled in just as I was walking from the parking lot to the TrainWeb office! All the cameras were upstairs and I knew I wouldn't have enough time to get them and then to get to the front end of the train. Sure enough, the new F59PHI was on that train! It was deadheading as the 3rd or 4th engine behind the lead Genesis locomotive.
I made it up to our office with the Southwest Chief still in the station, but it pulled out before I could even get my hands on the cameras. Checking the Metrolink schedule, I noticed that the next Metrolink train heading to Los Angeles would be leaving Fullerton in about 20 minutes at about 7:40 A.M. That would work! The Southwest Chief should still be at the platform at LAUS when my Metrolink train arrives. The platform work of unloading passengers and baggage would take at least 20 minutes, so the whole Southwest Chief should still be in the station.
As another good sign, I heard over the radio scanner before I left the TrainWeb office that the Southwest Chief had been given authority to "pull right to the bumper" when they got to LAUS. I guess the Engineer and Conductor were wondering if the express cars (and maybe the new locomotive) were to be pulled off the train before they pulled into the station. This was definitely a good sign that they were given clearance to pull right into the station! That meant they would not have torn the new locomotive off the train before I arrived and it should be sitting right at the platform.
The Metrolink train got to LAUS right on schedule as it usually does. The Southwest Chief was just two tracks over from us. Since I was at the head of the Metrolink, I just had to step off and follow the sidewalk that goes by the head of all the trains pulled into LAUS. Within moments I could see the new F59PHI!
The Southwest Chief was at the furthest platform. There is a parking lot right next to that track. I was able to walk right into that lot and take a number of photos of the new locomotive. Most of those are seen above. Unfortunately, some of the cars parked in the lot were a bit in the way and do appear in some of those photos.
Next, I took photos from the platform side of the track. This was a bit close to get good photos of the entire locomotive, but it did allow me to get a few detailed shots. Just then, a number of men in hardhats approached the locomotive. They studied the outside, but I never saw them climb into it. I walked down the passenger ramp and took a few shots from there, which was a bit of an interesting angle.
I tried to purchase a Pacific Class ticket from LAUS to San Diego and then a return ticket back to Fullerton. I was able to get the Pacific Class ticket from San Diego to Fullerton on the 3 PM train, but Pacific Class was sold out for the next southbound train (10:15 AM)! They had some availability for the 12:40 PM train, but I didn't want to wait for that. Thus, I just purchased an unreserved seat for my trip down to San Diego.
Now I just had to figure out what I was going to do with myself for the next hour and 45 minutes. I wandered about LAUS and took a few photos, including the area of the historic ticket windows that is no longer open to the public. Click here to see the photos that I took around Los Angeles Union Station. That still left me an hour and a half until my train. I wasn't looking forward to boarding a train that I knew was booked solid!
Just then, I heard the first call for the northbound San Diegan. That gave me an idea of how to kill two birds at once. I could take the northbound train for a stop or two and then board the southbound before all the crowds in Los Angeles! A quick check of the scheduled showed that I would only be able to go one stop to Glendale and safely make a connection to the southbound train. I started to head for the ticket window, but the line was pretty deep and the 9 AM departure time for the train was arriving rapidly!
I noticed that LAUS had installed a couple of the automated ticket machines. One was not operating and the other one didn't have a line. It was my only hope of obtaining a ticket in time! The machine worked fine except that I quickly learned that you can't buy a ticket to all available destinations! Glendale, Burbank and Van Nuys were not available destinations on the automatic ticket machine. Thus, I ended up purchasing a round trip ticket to Simi Valley for $17. If I had just gone ahead and boarded without a ticket, the onboard purchase penalty for boarding at a staffed station without a ticket would probably have been almost as much.
The northbound train was well populated, but not anywhere near "sold out". The ride from LAUS to Glendale was swift and uneventful. The southbound train was running about 20 minutes late. That gave me a chance to photograph a couple of Metrolink trains, the Glendale Station in its current state of rebuilding, and even the arrival and departure of the Amtrak Coast Starlight!
I was able to easily find a seat on the southbound Amtrak San Diegan, even a window seat that would be on the coastline side of the train south of Los Angeles. Once we pulled into Los Angeles, however, every seat on the train filled up!
The train left LAUS late, so I guess I would actually have had time to wait in that ticket line. But how can you figure that out when you are in the station?
As the train pulled out heading south and passed the Redondo Roundhouse, I saw that the F59PHI had been moved to that yard. There were a number of people in the doorway to the train. My train was a good distance from that location in the yard and there were a number of obstructions, but I did my best to take a few more shots. The nice thing about these photos is that the new locomotive was no longer attached to other locomotives in front of it and I could thus clearly see the front of the engine.
I had called Ray Burns, who works with me at TrainWeb, to meet my train as it pulled into the Fullerton Station. These photos needed to be developed and I didn't want to wait until I got back from San Diego. Thus, we made a plan for Ray to take the photos from me and have them developed at a one hour photo shop so they could be posted to the web later that day. Also, I didn't have time to grab my notebook computer out of my trunk that morning. I wanted to use it on my round trip to San Diego. So, Ray would also have my computer for me as I momentarily stepped out of the train in Fullerton.
Everything worked according to plan! Ray got the film from me and took it to a one hour photo shop and I got my computer from Ray (which allowed me to type all this on my way to and from San Diego on the train)!
That catches you up to where I am right now! We are sitting in the station. The engineer has just blown the horn so I guess we are "high ball" to go!