The Amtrak Dash 8, A Great Train or Not?

Welcome to The Amtrak Dash 8 aka the “Pepsi Can”, a true American workhorse that inspired many a train design.

As a part of the popular GE Transportation Systems’ Dash 8 series, Dash 8-32BWH was built in December 1991, the GE Transportation System created 20 units of this train for Amtrak. The series was numbered from 500 to 519. 

The Amtrak Dash 8-32BWH diesel locomotive was one of the most unique and popular diesel types in the 1990s. These engines are similar to the EMD SD70MAC which was built for Amtrak but never went into production.

Amtrak Dash 8-32BWH 502 is on the point of train 579, a “San Diegan,” as it makes a station stop in Fullerton, California, on its way from San Diego to Los Angeles. You can check out this and many other great pics, by our friends at HERE


– The Dash 8-32BWH is the only 4-axle version of this engine.

– It is the same basic design as the GE 40CHEE, except it has an air compressor instead of a turbocharger.

– It is designed for high-speed mainline operations.

– The Dash 8-32BHW is a diesel electric locomotive built by General Electric.

History And Background of The Amtrak Dash 8

As mentioned, the Amtrak Dash 8 was built in the early nineties and were the first locomotives purchased to replace the EMD F40PH.

The Amtrak Dash 8 has a 74:29 gear ratio which results in a maximum speed of 103mph or 166km/h. This is not the fastest train in the Amtrak fleet, but reliable, strong & well built.

I’m sure you’ve heard them referred to as a “Pepsi Can”, well this came from their design of large blue, red and white stripes.

Awesome Footage of The Amtrak Dash 8

Hit play below and check out the Dash 8 in action.

Check out their Youtube channel for serious amounts of great train footage

Design and Specification Summary

Power type Diesel 
Locomotive builder GE Transportation Systems  
Power output 3,200 hp (2.4 MW)
Build date 1991 
Total produced 20 
Top speed 103 mph (166 km/h)

This locomotive train produces 3,200 hp (2,400 kW) and uses DC power for transportation. It runs at 1047 rpm. But when the head-end power is provided to the locomotive, the engine’s speed is locked at 900 rpm. 

Talking about HEP mode, when a train runs in this mode with 0 kW HEP, the power output for the motor gets 2,700 ph (2,000 kW). 

When providing the maximum of 800 kW (1,100 hp) HEP load of a train, the transport horsepower gets limited to a minimum of 1,685 hp (1,257 kW). As a result, the train can achieve a maximum speed of 103 mph.

You can check out the speed of Amtrak trains in my article HERE.

Fun Fact

Two were sold to the California Department of Transportation among the 20 Dash 8 series units Amtrak bought. The trains were numbered 501 and 502. But after getting sold, they were renumbered to 2015 and 2052.

Amtrak Dash 8, Where Are They Today & What’s Next?

Today you will find the Amtrak Dash 8’s in California, they are still active, but no more were produced after the initial batch.

Instead, GE started with the Dash 9 series, producing slight external design tweaks but most notably a 4400HP engine.

There is no sign of retiring these great locomotives are perfect as switchers, work horses or even road diesels.