My Favorite Railroad Engines


NKP #759


This page covers my favorite engines...

The GP-30 sits at the top of my list.  Not exactly sure why it became my favorite engine... maybe the different look to the lines...  Maybe because it was a most impressive engine to me when I first saw it come through Tyler Texas on the Cotton Belt in the early 60's...


E-33's, which was the New Haven's designation for the engine which started out life as a Virginian EL-C.  Used to watch these things as a kid from my grandparents apartment building in the Queens, adjacent to the New Haven tracks heading for Hell Gate bridge.  A clear shot all the way up, with no obstructions, very cool, and with the binoculars my grandfather had, you could watch the train action two miles away on the bridge!

Another engine the New Haven used is also one of my favorites.... After the NH retired the E-33's, they replaced them with RS-11's, also known as a DL-701.

Now let's fast forward to the 2000's, and we love EMD's SD-90's.  While GE's equivalents are nice, again, I stick with the GM version of these behemoths!

Not to be outdone by modern stuff, the Nickel Plate Berkshire 759 won my heart when I was 16, and chased it coming back from the 100th anniversary of the Golden Spike Centennial out west, painted up in the American Railroads baby blue and yellow paint scheme!


An Indiana RR freight with high nose GP-30 #2252 heading east out of Kokomo, back in 1999 or so... notice the tilting target signal in the background.

About the GP-30 (Info came from here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EMD_GP30 ):


The GP30 was conceived out of the necessity of matching new competitor GE's U25B.  The U25B offered 2,500 hp (1,860 kW) while EMD's GP20 and its 567D2 prime mover was only rated at 2,000 hp (1,490 kW). The U25B also featured a sealed, airtight long hood with a single inertial air intake for electrical cooling, with a pressurized cooling system which kept dust out of the engine and equipment area.  Finally, the entire GE design was optimized for ease of access and maintenance.  The U25B demonstrators were receiving much praise—and orders—from the railroads that tested them. Meanwhile, ALCO had been producing the 2,400 hp (1,800 kW) RS-27 since 1959, though it had not sold well.

EMD's engineering department pushed their DC traction system for an extra 250 hp (186 kW).  The 2,250 hp (1,680 kW) wasn't quite equivalent to the GE and ALCO offerings, but EMD hoped the railroads' familiarity with EMD equipment would improve their chances.  The locomotive in which it would be fitted was improved along the lines of the U25B; sealed long hood, central air intake, and engineered for easier maintenance access.  The frame and trucks of the GP20 were carried across; the extra equipment for the centralized air system required more space behind the cab, and since the locomotive was not going to be lengthened, extra space was achieved vertically by raising the height of the locomotive, giving room for the central air system, turbocharger and electrical cabinet all behind the cab.  This extra height behind the cab meant that the body style used for previous GP units was not suitable.

Since EMD needed the new locomotive to be visibly modern and updated, they turned to the GM Automotive Styling Center at Troy, Michigan for help. The automobile stylists created the GP30's trademark "hump" and cab roof profile.  The hump-like bulge started at the front of the cab and enveloped the air intakes for the central air system and the dynamic brake blister.  Units ordered without dynamic brakes were the same shape, but lacked the intakes to cool the dynamic brake resistor grids.

A high short hood could be ordered, but only holdouts Norfolk and Western Railway and Southern Railway received such units.  EMD originally planned to name the locomotive the GP22, but EMD's marketing department decided to leapfrog GE's numbering to make the new locomotive seem more advanced. Marketing literature claimed 30 distinct improvements from the GP20 and that this was the reason for the number.

Sales and in service

The GP30 successfully countered the GE threat and kept EMD in the dominant position in the North American diesel market.  While losing a little power to the GE and ALCO competition, the solidity and reliability of the GP30—and the familiarity of railroad mechanical departments with EMD products—ultimately won many more orders for EMD. 948 were sold, in comparison to 476 U25Bs.  In addition, the GP30 was only sold until the end of 1963, while the U25B was available until 1966.

Most major railroads ordered GP30s, and many smaller ones did too.  The largest orders were from the SOU (120), UP (111), ATSF (85), and the B&O (77).

The sole purchaser of B units (by the mid 1960s generally an outdated concept) was the UP, who kept the practice of running its locomotives in matched sets much longer than others. Eight of those GP30B units were fitted with steam generators for heating passenger trains, the only GP30s to receive them.  Prior to Amtrak, UP would use a GP30 and two boiler equipped GP30Bs on passenger trains when no E8s or E9s were available.

Some units for the GM&O, MILW and SOO were built with from ALCO trade-ins and ride on ARR type B trucks instead of the standard Blomberg Bs.  An indisputable tribute to the quality of the GP30 design is the fact that a good number are still in service as of 2007, which is a service lifespan of over 40 years and well in excess of the design life of 25–30 years for the average diesel locomotive.  Furthermore, when life-expired, some railroads chose to give them major rebuilds instead of scrapping them.

Specifically, the Burlington Northern rebuilt GP30 (and GP35) units to the specifications of the later GP39.  These rebuilds (known as GP39Es, GP39Ms and GP39Vs) came not only from the ranks of the units the BN inherited from its own merger, but from the Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, SAL, and others.

The Chessie System rebuilt its GP30 units into GP30Ms, and they lasted with CSX into the mid-to-late 1990s, long after Seaboard System GP30s had been sold, retired and scrapped, or turned into road slugs.



The Burlington Northern Railroad was the most extensive user of rebuilt of GP30s.  Finding a need for modernized units of lower power, it sent GP30s, both its own and units purchased from other railroads, to be rebuilt.  Seventy units were sent to EMD, 65 to Morrison Knudsen (now Washington Group International) and 25 to VMV for rebuilding, and the rebuilds are known as GP39E, GP39M, and GP39V respectively.  The changes included new generators, Dash-2 modular electronic control systems and 567D3 engines upgraded with EMD 645-series power assemblies, rated at 2,300 hp (1,720 kW) and designated 12-645D3. These units are still in service on local and smaller lines throughout the BNSF Railway system.

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (ATSF) had previously, performed a similar upgrade in its own Cleburne, Texas shops, stripping the locomotives down to bare metal and rebuilding with new equipment.  The 567D3 engines were upgraded to a 2500 horsepower rating by the use of 645-series power assemblies.  The generators and traction motors were upgraded and control and electrical equipment was replaced.  The trucks received Hyatt roller bearings and single-clasp brake systems. Rooftop air conditioners and new horns were added.  The locomotives were repainted in the blue and yellow Yellowbonnet scheme, and designated GP30u (for upgraded).  78 of these survived until the BNSF merger, and most are still in use in secondary service.

The Soo Line Railroad rebuilt three GP30s with CAT 3515 engines rated at 2,000 horsepower (1.49 MW).  These were designated GP30C


Info came from here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VGN_EL-C

A few shots of New Haven freights in Queens, about a mile and a half from Hell Gate bridge.  The left picture shows southbound E-33's in 10/68 - a year later they were gone as evidenced in the right picture.  These pictures were taken when I was in my teens when I would stay with my grandparents over the summer. Nice view from the sixth floor of the apartment building - trains, planes, and subways!  These are scans of Instamatic pictures.  If I had taken the picture a second earlier, we also would have a plain view of the semaphore blocked by the pantograph!

Picture of the EL-C at the Virginia Transportation Museum in Roanoke VA - from Wikipedia - picture by Hicksco2

Another picture of the EL-C at the Virginia Transportation Museum.

Picture of a Spectrum HO model of the E-33. 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is supposed to be the only engine that wore the colors of five Class 1 railroads: the Virginian, the Norfolk & Western, the New Haven, Penn Central, and finally Conrail.

About the EL-C / E-33

The Virginian EL-C was a type of electric locomotive built for the Virginian Railway by General Electric in August 1955.  They were the first successful production locomotives to use Ignitron (mercury arc) rectifier technology.  Although they proved to be a very successful design, no more EL-C's were ever built, due to the small number of railroads that had electrification and the advent of improved electric locomotive technology.

The Virginian electrified a section of its line through the Appalachian mountains in the mid-1920s with a 11,000 volt, 25 Hz AC system.  The electrification was widely regarded as a success, but probably because of its huge cost, the Virginian never extended this electrification.

The Virginian originally used a fleet of three-unit boxcab locomotives designated EL-3A.  These were supplemented in 1946 by two pairs of two-unit streamlined locomotives designated as EL-2B.  By the 1950s, the EL-3A fleet was becoming life-expired, and Virginian went to GE for new locomotives as replacements.  The locomotives were delivered to the Virginian between October 1956 and January 1957 and numbered 130-141. GE used then-new Ignitron rectifier technology, first used on the experimental Pennsylvania Railroad E2c and E3b locomotives.  Although this same technology was used with less-than-optimal success on the earlier EP-5 locomotives built for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, it worked flawlessly on the Virginian’s EL-Cs due to the much larger area available in the EL-C (which lacked the steam generator/fuel tank and weight restrictions necessitated in the EP-5).

In December 1959, the Virginian Railway merged with the Norfolk and Western Railway.  The N&W renumbered the locomotives 230-241.  Only one of the locomotives was repainted, it being No. 235, which required it, after an accident.  The N&W only routed eastbound traffic over the former Virginian, with all westbound traffic going over the N&W’s original route.  The electrification system became surplus to requirements and was shut down in June 1962.   Locomotive #230 was rebuilt as a road slug the next month and renumbered 180.  All of the locomotives were sold to the New Haven which classified them as EF-4, and renumbered them 300-310 (N&W #180 was used as a parts source for the others). In 1969, new owner Penn Central reclassed them as E33 and renumbered the 300 and 302-310 as 4601-4610 (New Haven #301 was damaged in an accident and scrapped).  Retained and repainted by Conrail, all 10 E33s were retired at the end of March 1981 when Conrail shut down its electric freight operations.

RS-11's, aka, DL-701

A Penn Central local freight in Cockeysville MD, on a cold winter day back in February, 1972, with RS-11 #7634.
The freight is coming out of an industrial park, headed back up to the mainline siding.  A little evidence of the siding still exists, with some rail showing thru the pavement.

What a difference a month makes! This picture, from March, 1972, is only a couple hundred feet away from the above photo, with the train being on the mainline between Baltimore and Harrisburg. If we only knew today what was coming six months later, this boy would have been out every day taking pictures along the NC, for that's when hurricane Agnes hit Maryland and tore up the Northern Central. The "no turn on left sign" disappeared years ago, and up until 2005 or so, the MTA kept a speeder in a small shed on the left side of this grade crossing, so MOW could inspect the R-O-W. Everything is completely overgrown, and as of DEC 2006, NS filed for abandonment of the NC line, due to the fact that the MTA had the line torn up for double tracking and nothing was moving.

You can't really tell from the photo, but those are New Haven DL-701's pulling a northbound Penn Central freight through Queens, New York in May of 1969. It was really impressive to watch a NB and SB freight pass each other here, and I never caught it on film :-( The track is no longer a straight shot, as they curved the track maybe around~1997??? so they could straighten the terrible "S" curve on the BQE (on the very left of the photo).


Cool engines, what can I say, very cool.....  These pictures were taken in Spencer NC back in 2012 as part of NS's 20th Anniversary.



NKP #759

759 ran an awful lot of excursions back in the late 60's and early 70's.  A lot of them were based out of Baltimore MD, once it returned from it's engagement as the American Railroads ambassador to the Centennial celebration in Promontory Utah in May of 1969.


the following stuff comes from Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel_Plate_759

About 759

Nickel Plate Road 759 is an S-2 class 2-8-4 Berkshire class fast freight steam locomotive


759 was built in August 1944 by the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio for the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, better known as the Nickel Plate Road.  759 was one of 80 2-8-4 Berkshire type steam locomotives built for the Nickel Plate between 1934 and 1949 for fast freight duties.  The Nickel Plate had 4 sub-classes of 2-8-4s corresponding to which order the locomotive was in, these were designated S through S-3, 759, is a member of the third order of 2-8-4s and is therefore an S-2 class.

Much of 759's original career on the Nickel Plate is obscure at best, but it is known that in May 1958, 759 entered the Nickel Plate's Conneaut OH shops for a complete overhaul which turned out to be the last overhaul of a steam locomotive on the Nickel Plate.  After the overhaul was completed, 759 was never fired up and instead was put into storage.

759 was purchased by steam locomotive enthusiast, F. Nelson Blount on October 16, 1962 and subsequently moved to Steamtown U.S.A in North Walpole NH with the rest of his collection.  She would later be moved to Bellows Falls, VT.

In 1967 a commodities broker from New York named Ross E. Rowland Jr., who had previously leased another one of Blount's locomotives, made a deal that would return the 759 to service for steam powered fan trips hosted by Rowland's High Iron Company.  759 was taken to the Norfolk & Western Railroad's former Nickel Plate roundhouse in Conneaut, OH, the same place the 759 was last serviced. After a short restoration and subsequent testing, 759 pulled her first excursion for the High Iron Company on August 30, 1968 when she pulled a 15 car excursion to Buffalo NY.

In 1969, 759 was painted blue and gold for a special train celebrating the 100th anniversary of the driving of the golden spike.  This train, dubbed the Golden Spike Centennial Limited, would take 759 as far away as Omaha, NE.  After returning home from the Golden Spike Centennial Limited, 759 was returned to her Nickel Plate Road livery and ran two excursions for Steamtown, one of which was to Scranton PA, Steamtown's future home.

After a few excursions over the Boston & Maine and Central Vermont in late 1973, 759 was placed into storage at the Delaware & Hudson's roundhouse in Rouses Point, NY for the winter. While she was in storage, the D&H had neglected to completely drain the 759's boiler and left water in it which froze causing a considerable amount of damage to 759's boiler tubes. As a result, Steamtown sued the D&H for the damage it caused to the locomotive and won. As settlement for the damage, the D&H had some repairs made to the 759 and after some followup work back at Steamtown, 759 was test fired in 1975.  In 1977 some more repairs were made to get 759 legally operational, but after a boiler flue failed during a hydrostatic test, it was decided that 759 would remain a static display.

The 759 would join the rest of the Steamtown collection in 1984 when it was move from Bellows Falls, VT to Scranton, PA. After the move to Scranton, 759 would be placed on display in the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western rail yard with the rest of the collection. In 1988, Steamtown and most of its collection became part of the newly formed Steamtown National Historic Site.


Today Nickel Plate Road 759 is a static display at Steamtown, more often than not being on display inside the refurbished DL&W roundhouse. 759 is easily seen from the walk way Steamtown put inside the roundhouse to allow visitors to see the work going on. She is also the largest locomotive in the roundhouse with only a foot or two of clearance at either end making it notoriously difficult if not impossible to get a photo of the whole locomotive.

759 was one of the two American built steam locomotives considered by Steamtown to be restored to operating condition, the other being Boston & Maine 3713 which was ultimately chosen over 759, most likely due to clearance issues on the turntable (in order for 759 to fit, all of the safety railings that surround the turntable pit in the areas open to visitors have to be removed). In 2010, 759 was among the several steam locomotives in Steamtown's collection to undergo removal of her asbestos insulation.  Asbestos was used by railroads and locomotive manufacturers as boiler insulation.  In addition to having the asbestos removed, 759 had all new jacketing (cladding in UK terminology) applied as well as having her bell, which had been in storage re-installed.  While it is possible for Steamtown restore 759 to operational condition and a lot of railfans would love to see that happen Steamtown has stated that they have little interest in restoring 759, citing that she is too large for their use and that another Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4, Nickel Plate 765 is already operational.  For now 759 sits safely on display out of the elements in Steamtown's roundhouse.

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Last Updated: 26 Mar 2016