By Tony Bizjak
The Siemens rail company, one of the Sacramento region's manufacturing mainstays, unveiled a major new product line Monday, rolling out the first of 70 electric locomotives it will produce over the next two years for Amtrak's East Coast passenger lines.
The $466 million contract is the largest in the south Sacramento plant's two-decade history. Officials say it represents a key step for the French Road facility into the burgeoning electric passenger rail market.
"This is a door-opener for us to other inter-city rail products," said Michael Cahill, president of Siemens Rail Systems division in the United States.
The Sacramento plant will assemble the locomotives from parts built at a number of other Siemens plants nationally, and will use parts and services from a dozen Northern California companies, officials said.
Cahill said the local plant will continue to produce light-rail vehicles, and has just signed a contract with Portland, Ore., for new transit cars. It also has produced vehicles for Sacramento Regional Transit's light-rail system.
Siemens expanded the local facilities for the Amtrak contract. It's the Sacramento plant's first foray into mainline locomotive construction.
"Everything we do builds our knowledge, our repertoire and our references, so we don't have all our eggs in one basket," Cahill said.
Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, who lobbied for the Amtrak contract, said the contract helps keep Sacramento at the heart of the nation's growing rail manufacturing scene.
"Today's delivery ... is a testament to the integral role our region plays in our nation's larger transportation system," Matsui said in an emailed statement. "The partnership between Siemens and Amtrak created jobs right here in Sacramento, replaced older and dirtier units with more energy-efficient ones, and adhered to Buy America guidelines."
Amtrak officials say they will use the 125 mph locomotives to replace their aging fleet in the busy Northeast passenger rail corridor running between Washington, New York and Boston, and on the "keystone corridor" from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Pa.
Amtrak President Joseph Boardman said the technology will be able to send enough regenerated electricity - through the train braking system - back into the power grid to pay for roughly 65 percent of the initial $466 million cost.
The locomotives also include system redundancies and allow real-time remote monitoring of systems that will make the trains more reliable.
"It is a major change in improved reliability, efficiency and mobility in the Northeast corridor," Boardman said. "We're very happy."
The locomotive contract also could help the local Siemens plant position itself for electric train contracts if California moves forward with high-speed rail.
The 70 locomotives are expected to be finished and shipped by the end of next year.
Siemens Rail Systems is a part of Germany-based international technology conglomerate Siemens.