Empire Service train 284, led by AMTK 703 (P32AC-DM)

 Yesterday, the kids and I had to run a few errands, which took us in the direction of Pottery Road, in Warners, NY. So, we decided to time our outing with catching Empire Service train 284. 

Empire Service Train 284

About fifteen minutes, after we arrived at the Pottery Road crossing on the CSX Rochester Subdivision, I saw the headlight of train P284-24 (as it was known by CSX). Led by AMTK 703, the train was heading eastbound on Track 1, today. 

AMTK 703, leading Empire Service train 284, passes the mile 284 marker
Passing the 298 mile marker

While trains can use either track, typically, the eastbound trains use Track 2. However, with the New York State Fair underway, Empire Service trains are making an extra stop in the Syracuse area at the New York State Fairgrounds, and the fairgrounds stop is on the north side of the tracks. Track 1 of the Rochester Subdivision is the northern track.

AMTK 703

AMTK 703 is a General Electric P32AC-DM, and, according to rrpicturesarchive.net, it was built in June of 1995. The locomotive is painted in Amtrak's Phase III paint scheme, and features an Empire Service emblem on the sides of the locomotive. 

The "DM" in the P32AC-DM model name stands for dual mode. These locomotives can be powered by either diesel power or third-rail eclectic power. They use the third-rail power when operating in the tunnels of NYC.

AMTK 703, leading Empire Service train 284, leans into the curve at Pottery Rd.
Train 284 leans into the curve at Pottery Rd.

AMTK 703's Escape Hatch

The locomotive has a safety feature in the form of an escape hatch on the front of the locomotive. I had never seen this before on Genesis model locomotives, and it wasn't until I was actually processing the images that it stood out to me. I knew the hatch opened for some reason, but I initially thought it was to put something into the locomotive.

Close up view of AMTK 703's nose, which features an escape hatch
Close up view, showing the escape hatch

After doing some some internet research (stop rolling your eyes), what I found was that it was an escape hatch. However, Amtrak's locomotives operating on the Empire Service corridor did not originally have them, which explains the rough-around-the-edges look of the escape hatch on AMTK 703. 

The reason for not having the escape hatches, originally, was because Empire Service trains, typically, operate into and out of New York City's (NYC) Penn Central Station. The tunnels at Penn Central Station are large enough for crew members to evacuate out the side of the locomotive, in the event of a fire. But, occasionally, these trains arrive and depart from Grand Central Station. Usually, when there is a renovation project under way on the Penn Central Station tunnels. Parts of the tunnel at Grand Central Station (GCS) are so narrow that a crew member can't escape out the sides of the locomotives. The GCS tunnel is operated by Metro-North Railroad, and all of that railroads Genesis series locomotives were built with escape hatches on the front of the locomotives.

Empire Service Trains

Empire Service trains run between Niagara Falls, NY., and NYC's Penn Central Station. Currently there are three trains each way between the two cities. Normally, two of the six trains runs as Amtrak's Maple Leaf trains, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic the trains are terminating at Niagara Falls, NY., instead of traveling to and from Toronto, ON., via Niagara Falls, ON., and Hamilton, ON. Therefore, the Maple Leaf trains have temporarily been reclassified as Empire Service trains.

Photographs taken on August 24, 2021, at Warners, NY.

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All images/photographs are copyrighted © by Tom Gatermann. All rights reserved.

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