The Illinois Railway Museum has given Rock Island fans a reason to visit and filled a gap in the nation’s preserved railroad history by painting the lone CRI&P engine in IRM possession into its final blue and white “bankruptcy” paint scheme, the only example of the scheme in a U.S. museum. Completed by museum volunteers and unveiled to the public early this summer, the museum’s new showpiece is an EMD GP7, built in 1952 as Rock Island 1266. Sold to Precision National Company around 1975 after more than 20 years service, it was rebuilt as a GP7R and leased back to RI wearing the blue and white scheme adopted in the wake of its 1975 bankruptcy declaration.
The engine returned to PNC after the final demise of The Rock five years later, and in 1981 showed up as Chicago & North Western 4160. It remained in service for CNW through the Union Pacific takeover and beyond, until being laid up with a purportedly seized prime mover in 1998. The unit sat in Janesville, Wis., until going to IRM 2007.
The IRM collection includes other early EMDs, including the first GP7 demonstrator, CNW 1518. Since the former Rock Island unit was supposedly unserviceable, it was initially slated to be parted out and scrapped. The unit got yet another lease on life when IRM volunteers got her running in 2008 and put her to work once again, still in CNW paint. The restoration of the unit to its former Rock Island identity began in 2017 and was completed in June, with a public unveiling scheduled for July 7.