Amtrak currently operates four routes that pass through the Mountain
time zone: the Empire Builder in the north, the California Zephyr
and the Southwest Chief in the center, and the Sunset Limited
in the south. Additionally, until 1997, two more routes linked Salt Lake
City with Seattle (the Pioneer) and Las Vegas / Los Angeles (the
All western long-haul trains operate essentially the
same equipment, notably the Superliner cars. This type of bi-level car was
patterned after the Santa Fe's fleet of cars used on its El Capitan
train from the 1950's (indeed, some of the El Capitan cars were kept
in Amtrak service into the 1990s, notably the "transition" cars).
These high-level cars are equipped with diaphragms on the upper level, so
they cannot be effectively used in service with standard passenger cars
unless a transition car is used (i.e. a car with one high and one low
diaphragm). The Superliners entered service right at the end of 1979.
See the equipment pages at left for more details.
Notes about Amtrak Paint Schemes
In the mid-1970's, Amtrak introduced its second paint scheme, dubbed "Phase
II". Replacing the original "Pointless Arrow" scheme, Phase II
consisted of two broad stripes, red above blue, each with narrow white
borders. The F40PH locomotives were largely delivered in this design, as
were many Superliner cars. On Superliners, the word "Superliner"
in script was superimposed across the stripes in the center of the car.
Beginning around the inauguration of the Superliner fleet, the Phase
III scheme came into use. This consisted of three roughly-equal
sized stripes of red, white, and blue, without the narrow white pinstripes
of the Phase II design. As with Phase II, the scripted "Superliner"
legend was placed on Superliner cars.
For most of the 1980's, the two schemes could be seen intermingled on
trains, although most cars were repainted to Phase III by 1990.
When the new P40 "Genesis" locomotives from GE arrived in 1993, they
carried a modified Phase III scheme, wherein the stripes dipped at the nose
and narrowed, and faded out at the rear into a dotted pattern. This was
supposed to look like a ribbon flapping in the wind. However, it was
expensive to apply and maintain, and with the arrival of the P42 locomotives
later in the decade, it was simplified to solid stripes.
With the next order of Superliner cars in 1993, Amtrak introduced the
Phase IV scheme. This design featured a single dark blue
stripe, topped by four alternating white and red pinstripes. Car numbers and
types were placed prominently at each end above the stripes, and an enlarged
"SUPERLINER" legend emblazoned in the center. The scheme was put onto
a few Genesis locomotives, but was never the dominant design. Most
locomotives were repainted directly from Phase III to Phase V (below).
This scheme was simplified circa 2007 with the removal of the large
lettering. This is referred to as Phase IVb. The word Superliner
was placed instead in tiny white letters at the right end of the blue
stripe (in the standard Frutiger font). Cartype lettering (e.g. Lounge, Diner, Sleeping Car) only appears in
small blue, to the left side of the vestibule door-- not on the ends as
before. The black "Amtrak" legend was removed, and a small blue Amtrak logo
was added near the entry door.
I have noticed that the Phase IVb scheme has evolved over time. Initially
the car number numerals and the "Travelmark" logo were a much lighter blue.
However, the numbers were very difficult to read. Fairly early on (as early
as 2007) the numerals began to be replaced with a darker Navy Blue, and
their size increased by about 1" in height. Eventually the logos were also
changed to a darker color. By 2015 nearly all cars had received the darker
versions. See my data sampling for more details.
Phase V scheme for locomotives was introduced with the Acela high-speed service in the
Northeast Corridor iin 1999, Consisting of a silver carbody with a
dark blue wave shaped area along the top, Phase V began to be applied to the
P42 locomotives circa 2000, and has now become the standard scheme for
Amtrak power. It has not, however, been applied to rolling stock used
in the western routes. Phase V originally included a red and blue
stripe and a dark gray-blue border along the bottom, but this was later
simplified by extending the silver all the way to the sills with just a
single red stripe. At least two shades of blue have been used for the "wave"
portion-- see photos.