The New Haven Railroad’s EP5s were one of the most technologically advanced and final types of electric locomotives the railroad ever owned. Extremely powerful, and very noisy (which gave them the name of "Jets"), the motors proved to be exemplary in passenger/commuter operations although their high cost precluded the New Haven from owning very many of them. Interestingly, the EP5s had a relatively short service life in comparison to electric locomotives in general. Delivered in the late 1950s after the New Haven
became part of the Penn Central they were relegated to duties other
than passenger service under the PC and those that still remained in
service were all scrapped by Conrail in the late 1970s. For being such a
new, innovative locomotive the EP5s died a rather slow death.
New Haven EP5 #379 heads towards New York City as it passes through the interlocking at New Rochelle, New York on the morning of February 4, 1969. In the background is a local freight waiting for the main to clear led by Alco FA-1 #0418.
In 1954 the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad purchased a set of 10 Ignitron-rectifier electric locomotives from General Electric
to help replace its older fleet of EP-2s and EP-3s, and complement its
newer EP-4s. These locomotives were dubbed EP5s and were the most
powerful electrics the New Haven ever owned rated at 4,000 hp and 87,000
pounds of starting tractive effort. Internally the motors used
nose-suspended traction motors, which were actually more commonly found on older models
than newer designs (gearless traction motors, or those located within
the trucks themselves, date back to the early 20th century).
The EP5s were a double-ended design with pantographs located
on each end of the locomotive. While not a new concept this setup truly
allowed for much more efficient operations, especially in commuter
service where trains were regularly operating in multiple directions, as
the locomotive did not have to be turned. In any event, the model was
actually quite an innovation for its day as it was the first to convert
AC (alternating current) electricity from the overhead catenary, which
the New Haven used, into DC (direct current) to power its traction
motors. Additionally, because the EP5s operating into both Grand
Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station they were equipped to use New
York Central's third-rail system as well as housed the Pennsylvania's
cab signaling system.
By the late 1960s much of the New Haven's fleet was showing its age, as seen here on EP5 #371 speeding through New Rochelle during February of 1969 about a year into the Penn Central era.
In any event, the EP5s proved their worth and were quite adept in
passenger and commuter service on the NYNH&H. However, due to their
high price tag, and the fact that by the 1950s the railroad was in
serious financial trouble (it would later file for bankruptcy
in the early 1960s) the NYNH&H only purchased ten units of the EP5.
Instead, the railroad found that the duel-mode FL9s from EMD proved to
be just as effective and much cheaper to purchase (not to mention that
they could operate using both electricity and diesel as a primary fuel source).
While the locomotives were quite reliable, quick accelerating,
and very fast they did have some issues. Most notable was their
overheating issue when in cramped places, such as tunnels and station
approaches, where the loud and noisy blowers (a reason they received the
name, "Jets") could not intake enough fresh air to keep the units cool. Usually, this was not an issue although after one EP5 caught fire
after the creation of Penn Central they were banned from use in New
In the end, the EP5s only saw about ten years of use under New
Haven before the railroad was forced into the Penn Central debacle in
1968, where the locomotives were reassigned as E-40s and remained in
commuter service, save for two which were retrofitted for freight duty.
Even before the PC takeover the NYNH&H had begun to park the units
in favor to the cheaper FL9s. In the very late years of the New Haven
the railroad lost interest in much of its electrified operations. While
the FL9s were cheaper to purchase the EP5s were cheaper to operate and
resulted in long-term savings. After the Penn Central took over the six
now E-40s saw regular use until the 1973 fire incident in New York
City's Park Avenue Tunnel, which resulted in the entire fleet being
pulled from service.
Incidentally, Amtrak two years earlier decided against using them along the Northeast Corridor and they sat in storage until Conrail took over PC's operations in the spring of 1976. Conrail kept the fleet on its early roster, as the carrier did employ electric operations for its freight services
very early on. However, none ultimately operated under Conrail and
were sent to the scrapper in 1979. Today, sadly, no EP5s remain
A closeup view of New Haven EP5 #375 heading southbound for Grand Central Terminal near New Rochelle with a commuter consist during February of 1969.
For more reading on the NYNH&H’s EP5s, and essentially all of the railroad’s motors, please consider Electric Locomotives by Brian Solomon. The book details most electric locomotives used in the United States beginning with the B&O’s Baltimore project and extensively covers the New Haven’s operations, in much more detail than what I have here. Lastly, for more reading on the New Haven Railroad itself consider New Haven Railroad
from Peter Lynch. The book gives you a great overview and history of
the New Haven (and it is filled with many, excellent, historical and
colorful photographs). If you
have an interest in the New Haven or Northeastern railroading in
general, I'm sure you will enjoy the book.
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