By Eric Berger
REARDAN, Wash.—The last surviving EMD F7A of the Spokane, Portland & Seattle and the last SD9 purchased by Great Northern Railway are both moving to the Inland Northwest Rail Museum in eastern Washington, the non-profit announced recently.
The F7 was always a rarity on Alco-dominated SP&S, which bought just three F3s and four F7s, compared to 34 of Alco’s FA models. Even today, five of the Alco cab units exist in some form but the former SP&S 804 is only EMD cab. Built in January 1953, all four F7s worked as Burlington Northern units nearly a decade after the Alcos were scrapped or sold off, but only 804 found a second career when it was retired in 1981. After several short line stints, the engine was used on the Minnesota Zephyr excursion in the late 1990s. That folded in 2007 and the engine sat in Stillwater, Minn., until it was purchased for the Iowa Pacific Holdings-owned San Luis & Rio Grande and moved to Colorado in 2015. It was at risk of being sold to for scrap during the recent bankruptcy liquidation of SL&RG, but was rescued thanks to contributions by members of the SP&S Historical Society.
The F7 retains its original 567B prime mover, which reportedly can be turned over. It will be moving by rail soon following work that includes installation of new wheelsets and traction motors.
The other new acquisition is the former Great Northern 599, which will be reunited with GN 598, the only other GN SD9 with dynamic brakes, previously donated to the museum by BNSF. The two were ordered in 1958, the last of 27 in the GN SD9 fleet. The 599 was originally donated to the City of Skykomish, where volunteers had begun returning it to Great Northern paint, but was threatened with eviction and the possibility of scrapping in 2019. Contacted for assistance in saving the engine in 2022, museum members were able to arrange for BNSF to “redonate” it to the museum.
The museum plans to use parts from 599 to restore 598 to full operation, then do a cosmetic restoration of 599 and use it as a dummy unit, paired with 598 as they were in their time on GN.
The museum will open for its 2023 season on April 1. For more information or to donate to the restoration projects, visit their website at https://inlandnwrailmuseum.com/support/.