Progress Rail Aids Fort Wayne Group Restoring NKP SD9

Officials say the restoration is now 90 percent complete and the locomotive will soon be used on the Indiana Rail Experience. Photo Courtesy of FWRHS.

Progress Rail Aids Fort Wayne Group Restoring NKP SD9

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

Progress Rail and the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society teamed up to complete a large part of the restoration of Nickel Plate Road SD9 358. On Monday, the non-profit group announced that the restoration was about 90 percent complete and the locomotive would soon be moved to the Indiana Northeastern to be used alongside NKP 2-8-4 765 on the Indiana Rail Experience excursions. 

Donated by Norfolk Southern in 2010, FWRHS volunteers have been working on the locomotive for about six years and it was recently brought to the Progress Rail (formally EMD) facility in Muncie, Ind., to push the project closer to the finish line. Officials say there is still some minor electrical work that needs to be done but that the restoration is “90 percent” complete. More than 12,000 volunteer hours and $100,000 in donations have been put toward the project. In addition to Progress Rail and its employees, supporters have included Steel Dynamics, Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway, Nickel Plate Railroad Historical & Technical Society, Crown Battery, Horizon Rail, and numerous private individuals with locomotive expertise. 

Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society and Progress Rail team members stand in front of the nearly-completed NKP 358.

“It has been emotional for us to watch this machine transform from a derelict state to a museum-quality showpiece. Progress Rail’s support has been critical throughout the overhaul, and their commitment to making the locomotive look just as it did when it was built by Electro-Motive has our heartfelt gratitude,” said W.D. Miller, Project Manager. “While our organization is known for operating a 1940s-era Nickel Plate steam locomotive, there is an entire generation of Americans who remember the enduring presence of these types of diesel-electric engines operating throughout the country.” 

Locomotive 358 is one of 20 SD9s built in the late 1950s that helped bring about the end of steam on the NKP. Designated as “Special Duty” locomotives, the SD9-type locomotive helped end the era of steam power thanks to their reduced maintenance costs. The 358 went on to serve Norfolk & Western and Norfolk Southern for decades before it was retired. The 358 will be the only operational Nickel Plate SD9 to look as it did when new and the only one to operate in rail tourism service. 

Progress Rail officials said they were excited to partake in the effort to get 358 back on the main line.

“This project is a tribute to the design, durability, and quality of EMD locomotives,” said Art Erbacher, senior vice president of Progress Rail. “Supporting an effort like this is part of what makes working in the rail industry so rewarding.”

“Being involved in this project has boosted morale within our team,” added Jose Ruy Sanchez, locomotive operations director at Progress Rail in Muncie. “We are excited to see the finalized unit and tell our family and friends we were part of the restoration. At Progress Rail, we are proud to be part of an industry that connects people and communities, and we are looking forward to crossing paths with this locomotive in the future.”

This article was posted on: July 11, 2023