By Railfan & Railroad Staff
ESCANABA, Mich. — After being in storage for nearly four decades, one of the last Baldwin RF-16 “Shark” locomotives emerged into the daylight this week — but the reasons why are still shrouded in mystery. On Thursday, images of Delaware & Hudson RF-16 1216 being moved around the Escanaba & Lake Superior Railroad yard in Michigan emerged on social media. The locomotive and its sister, D&H 1205, have been stored there since the early 1980s.
Delaware & Hudson Baldwin RF-16 “Sharks” 1205 and 126 at Binghamton, N.Y., in July 1975. —Collection Kevin EuDaly
The two “Sharks” are the only of their type to survive and were rare birds when they arrived on the D&H in the early 1970s. Baldwin built a total of 160 of the streamlined locomotives in the early 1950s but by the late 1960s, only a handful survived on the Monongahela Railroad. Most of those locomotives were scrapped, but a pair of them eventually ended up on the D&H, where they mostly worked local freights in New York.
In 1978, the locomotives were sold to Castolite Corporation, a locomotive leasing firm, and sent to Michigan. Locomotive 1205 eventually suffered a crankshaft failure and was put in storage. Locomotive 1216 followed it in 1982. The two locomotives were stored deep in the E&LS shops locked away in a shed, well out of sight of curious railfans who were repeatedly told that they were not welcome on the property. While the E&LS had refused visitors, management vowed that eventually the two Sharks would be donated to a museum upon passing of the railroad’s president John Larkin.
Whether such a donation was imminent is unknown, but the appearance of one of the rare locomotives is sure to fuel speculation among fans.