WASHINGTON -- Amtrak is putting the new high-speed Acela train through the paces.

It is conducting tests late at night and on weekends on a stretch of track outside Philadelphia, in preparation for its planned December debut in the Northeast Corridor.

Tests on the train, now referred to as Acela Express, largely involve checking braking, air conditioning and other systems, as well as the computer software that operates them.

For testing purposes, the train was weighed down to simulate a full load of passengers.

Another stripped down Acela Express train is being tested at its top speed of 166 mph on a 14-mile, circular test track in Pueblo, Colo.

Still more tests are expected to get under way late in September with a third Acela Express train along a portion of track in Rhode Island.

The tests will include running the train at 150 mph while testing the electrification of tracks.

Data collected from all of the tests will be analyzed and compared, as Amtrak gets the Acela Express ready for revenue service between Washington, D.C., New York and Boston. Amtrak intends to have 20 Acela Express trains operating in the Northeast Corridor by next summer.

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