Amtrak Equipment Pages:
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 Desert Wind). And since 2017 the seasonal Winter Park Express has operated from Denver to the Winter Park ski area.
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 far longer, particularly the “transition” cars, and various other cars used on west coast routes). 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 first Superliners entered service right at the end of 1979.
Here’s a link to a condensed Livery and Logo Guide from Amtrak. It has everything you’d ever want to know about Amtrak paint schemes.
Some general remarks 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 the first order of 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 replaced starting circa 2005 with the Phase IVb scheme. Visually similar to Phase IV, the large Superliner script in the design was replaced with tiny white letters at the right end of the blue stripe (in the standard Frutiger font). Car-type 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 Travelmark logo was added near the entry door. Incidentally, the stripes are also slightly different.
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 shade, and their size increased by about 1″ in height. Eventually the Travelmark 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.
The Phase V scheme for locomotives was introduced with the Acela high-speed service in the Northeast Corridor in 1999, Consisting of a “Platinum Mist” 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.