In the 1970s – with Amtrak still reeling from inheriting a proverbial mixed bag of equipment from the former passenger carriers – efforts were made to improve passenger services along key corridors. Following the success of the French-built RTG Turboliners in the mid-1970s in the Midwest, Amtrak turned to Rohr Industries in California to build modernized Turboliners for use along the Empire Corridor.
Entering service starting in September 1976, these new RTL Turboliners quickly proved their value, bringing passengers back to the rails. Equipped with third-rail shoes, they operated on electric power through New York’s Grand Central Terminal (and later Penn Station), switching to gas-turbine power once out of New York City. Painted in Amtrak’s stunning red, white and blue Phase III paint scheme, they operated on most Empire Corridor services, as well as regular appearances on the Adirondack to and from Montreal in the early years. Occasional equipment needs even put the Turbos on other rare adventures outside their normal call of duty, including the Niagara Rainbow to Detroit via Southwestern Ontario, and the Maple Leaf to Toronto via Niagara Falls.
After nearly 20 years of service under their belts, Amtrak selected one RTL set in 1994 to be rebuilt into what would be called the RTL-II, incorporating several improvements including new turbines, a remodelled interior, a striking new demonstrator paint scheme, in addition to extending the lifespan of the set for several more years. While this set continued in service until 2003, no other RTL-II sets were ever commissioned.
Source from Rapido Photo courtesy Mike Danneman