For me the AEM-7s will always be ‘meatballs’. This name is twice-removed metaphorical allusion. The AEM-7 was derived from the Swedish class Rc electric. The allusion to meatballs is a reference to ‘Swedish meatballs’ and thus shortened to just meatballs, with Sweden being implied.
On December 27, 1986, my old pal TSH and I paid a visit to Bridgeport, Connecticut on a tour of former New Haven Railroad properties.
I made this photograph using my father’s Rollieflex Model T with 645 ‘super slide’ insert.
In my mind the composition made perfect use of the rectangular window. I wonder what I would have come up with if I’d exposed the view as a square?
In the days after exposing this photograph I made a large print, 11×14 or 16×20 in size, which has sadly vanished. Perhaps, someday I’ll make another.
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Sunday, November 8, 2015, I learned that an AEM-7 was working Amtrak train 163 from Boston to Washington DC.
A year ago this event wouldn’t have been noteworthy, but now it is. Amtrak’s AEM-7s are getting rare and engine 939 was the only one I saw working on that day. The last I heard there were just ten left in traffic.
My philosophy is that every photo I make of an Amtrak AEM-7 on the move may be the last one.
The Swedish State Railways (Staten Järnväger, SJ) class Rc4, built by Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolag (ASEA), was the inspiration for Amtrak’s AEM-7 (assembled by EMD).
An advancement of the Rc4 is the Rc6 which was the pattern emulated in the ALP-44 used by NJ Transit.
In July, I made a study of SJ’s Rc6 electrics at Luleå, Sweden. These well maintained machines are a contrast to Amtrak’s surviving AEM-7s that are tired and battle-worn after three-decades of hard service racing up and down the Northeast Corridor.
Some months ago, an Amtrak engineer confided to me, “I understand why you like these electrics, but I hate them. They’re worn out. The suspension is shot. The cabs are drafty.”
Amtrak 915 has been preserved at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. A few continue to work the Northeast Corridor. Most will end up as scrap. In the meantime, their Swedish cousins work electric lines across the country.
In January 1980, I made my first photographs of Amtrak AEM-7s. They were then brand new. I didn’t much care for them then because the represented the end for my favorite GG1s. Nothing lasts forever, and now Amtrak AEM-7s are rolling off their final miles.
I made this photo of Amtrak 945 at South Station last year on the day before the first official run of Amtrak ACS-64 number 600. The new ACS-64 are locomotives that will ultimately supplant the AEM-7s on the North East Corridor.
And what of my first AEM-7 photos? I processed my film using oxidized Microdol-X and the negatives were exceptionally thin. (under processed). Perhaps, if I can locate them, I can fix them in post-processing, but that’s a project for another day.