E unit on Amtrak In mid-1993, the upper midwest region of the U.S. was plagued by epic flooding, especially around the Mississippi River basin. Eventually, the Burlington Northern’s main line hosting Amtrak’s California Zephyr was under water, necessitating a switch to a detour route to keep operating. The train was moved over to the Chicago & North Western’s Chicago to Omaha route that hadn’t experienced the severe flooding. The only problem was that C&NW’s signal system featured Automatic Train Control (ATC), and none of Amtrak’s locomotives were so equipped. A C&NW freight unit could be added, but with their lower gearing, would have slowed the train’s schedule down.
A decision was made to borrow a couple of Metra E units equipped with ATC to lead the trains over C&NW territory. So for a brief while in the summer of 1993, Amtrak’s California Zephyr Nos. 5 and 6 were led by EMD’s bulldog-nosed E units! In this photo, Amtrak No. 6, the eastbound Zephyr, cruises over the BN diamonds at Rochelle, Illinois, led by Metra E8 No. 516 on July 16, 1993. The E8 is on familiar rails—No. 516 was built as C&NW No. 5029A in June 1953.