I'm an Amtrak engineer, and work on the Caltrain property, so I can comment on the MP36 for you. Early on when we first got these engines on the property, the biggest issue was overspeed penalties, this was from slapping the throttle. Slapping the throttle refers to going from idle straight to run 8 and nothing in between, well the computer got all confused and caused the engine to go into overspeed. It happened to several engineers, it even happened to me and the prime mover shut down, but due to a faulty alternator we couldn't start it back up because the batteries were dead.....go figure on a new engine!
The other issue we were having was hunting at high speeds, not to say that 79mph is high speed, but when the engines first hit the property the fastest we would go with them was 75mph for a short stretch until the CTX project was complete and we started to run 79mph. We did run these units on the UP to Gilroy with no noticeable issues, these units tended to hunt moreso on track with concrete ties. When running on track with wooden ties the hunting (lateral) wasn't as noticeable. One of the mechanical gurus in San Jose came up with a fix for the engines, which was to recut the taper on the tread of the wheels. So one by one they were sent down to LAX to have the wheel treads recut and this fix worked. Some may not seeing pictures of the said movements on the Coast Starlight, and wondered the purpose of the F40PH-2 mixed into the consist as well. Reason being was very few engineers on "Big Amtrak" as it's refered to are qaulified on the 30CDW-E brake valve, let alone the characteristics of the new engines, so the F40 was put into the lead each time one was sent down south.
Once these units returned, and were put back into service, the hunting/lateral motion was gone, not even noticeable by any means. Other issues that I can think of were little things, like upgrading the software with regards to wheelslip issues, this conincided with the throttle slapping issues, which were resolved and now you can slap the throttle each time with no worries of going into overspeed penalty. Other than the aforementioned items, the units have proven to be very reliable and have a better availability rate than the F40's do. Of course given the age of the F40's, one could see the difference in availability rates.
One issue that was high on the list for engineers with regards to their biggest complaint was the use of the 30CDW-E brake valve with the Bombardier equipment. The Bombardier cars are set up for graduated release, whereas the older gallery cars are set up for direct release and electro-pneumatic braking. The E-P feature simply allows you to put the brake valve into the hold position, which will the EP braking holds the train at the station while you recharge your brake pipe, this was put into service back in the mid-80's when the new equipment came on line and the thinking was because of the short distances between stops. It's also useful for smoothing out your stop by going from hold to release a few times, or lap to release, either way it works.
Well the EP brake valve on the MP36's was being used with the Bombardier cars, and it made it extremely difficult (but not impossible) to make a smooth station stop. You had an engine set up for direct release, running with cars set up for graduated release and each time you graduated manually a quick motion from lap to release and back, if you did this more than two times you would loose all your air in the train and you'd have to go back after it quickly or you would overshoot the station. So it mean holding onto the air, and making a rough station stop, or power braking into each stop (which is prohibited as the powers that be want you to use blend on trains of less than 10 cars). Eventually we got the standard 30CDW put in on the units, and the software was upgraded.
All in all the units perform quite well, with the new 96-train schedule and 22- baby bullets being part of that, standard trainsets are being used for the express service as well as the MP36's and Bombardier cars. Funny how passengers get so used to a routine, whenever they see the standard gallery set pull up, they always ask "is this the baby bullet" as they are used to seeing the newer equipment.
Hope this answers your questions, feel free to ask anything else you might have questions about.
[quote="doepack"]Earlier this year, Trains magazine did an in-depth feature on Caltrain's commuter operations. I noticed that among the newest additions to the fleet of commuter locomotives are six MP36's from MPI, and as I understand it, this is the primary power used on the "baby bullet" runs.
Here in Chicago, Metra has had to address meeting the growing needs of its commuters by planning service expansions, while also modernizing its locomotive fleet. To that end, Metra has recently acquired 27 MP36's as part of its effort to meet these demands. In the two years since they've been on the property, however, there have been many mechanical problems with them. Everything from blown turbochargers, to computer malfunctions while loading, along with a host of other assorted difficulties.
So, what I'd like to know is, how have they fared in California? Have there been any problems with these locomotives, and if so, what degree of service disruptions (if any) have any of these caused? Thanks in advance..