This week, the editors of Railfan & Railroad Magazine are looking at some of the biggest stories in railroading in 2021. Be sure to check Railfan.com every weekday all year long for all your (free) railroad news and if you like what you see, consider subscribing.
By Justin Franz
The steam locomotives always get the glory, but in 2021, railroad museums from coast-to-coast stepped up their efforts to preserve diesel locomotives as well, from small switchers to main line streamliners.
The B&O Railroad Museum kept itself busy in 2021 with a number of important cosmetic restorations. First up was EA 51, the first streamlined diesel-electric built by Electro-Motive back in 1937. The restoration took five years and the museum event built an “English wheel tool” to recreate the curved stainless steel ornament on the front of the locomotive that gives it its modern art deco lines. Then in the summer, the first commercially built diesel-electric locomotive in the world, Central Railroad of New Jersey 1000, made its public debut following a cosmetic restoration.
In May, Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp. acquired a rare General Electric C30-7 locomotive from the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society. The six-axle GE, formerly Louisville & Nashville 7067, is the third diesel acquired by the Kentucky non-profit that is currently restoring Chesapeake & Ohio 2-8-4 2716.
In August, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum acquired a rare Fairbanks-Morse H16-66 “Baby Trainmaster” from the Tennessee Valley Authority. H16-66 F3060 was built in 1958 to move coal at TVA’s generating plant in Gallatin, Tenn., and it was retired in 1997.
Nevada Northern Railway RSD-4 201 was moved from Washington to Nevada in November as part of deal between NNRy and the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, Wash. Photo by David Honan.
The Nevada Northern launched an effort to bring two of its own diesels home. SD7 401 is currently in operating condition at a power plant in Delta, Utah, and RSD-4 201 was on static display at the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, Wash. Both locomotives have been acquired by the museum and money was raised this year to move them back. While 401 is still in Utah, Alco 201 was moved to East Ely in November. As part of that move — which required the use of multiple cranes — NNRy helped the Northwest Railway Museum move a Northern Pacific HH600 to its facility.
The Southern California Railway Museum teamed up with BNSF Railway in October to restore Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe SD45-2 5704 to its special bicentennial paint scheme it wore in the 1970s. The locomotive will be moved west sometime next year.
The newly-restored Nickel Plate GP30 902 on its first run at Mason, Ohio, on September 24, 2021, for the Nickel Plate Road Historical & Technical Society convention. Photo by M.T.Burkhart.
In October, a newly-established non-profit acquired the only surviving Lehigh & New England diesel locomotive. The Railroad & Industrial Preservation Society, Inc, announced it had completed the purchase of L&NE S2 611 on the same day as the 60th anniversary of the railroad’s abandonment. The group plans on restoring the locomotive to operating condition.
Indiana’s Hoosier Valley Railroad continued to solidify itself as a destination for diesel fans with news about a number of notable locomotives. In April, it was announced that the privately owned Monon SW1 DS-50 — Monon’s first diesel — would be coming to the museum for restoration. It was previously part of the Indiana Transportation Museum collection but had its cab destroyed in a trucking accident. In May, two rare BL2 locomotives that once belonged to the Bangor & Aroostook were shipped to the Hoosier Valley where they will eventually be restored to BAR colors. And finally, in August, Chesapeake & Indiana Railroad donated a rebuilt Elgin, Joliet & Eastern SD9 to the museum.
Other notable diesel doings in 2021 included: the news that a privately owned A-B-A set of FA-2 locomotives would eventually wear Pennsylvania Railroad Brunswick green and yellow; a restored Nickel Plate Road GP30 made its debut in Ohio; Conway Scenic acquired a second former Maine Central GP38; a former Chicago & North Western E8A got a new home at the Illinois Railway Museum; two F-units left abandoned following the Iowa Pacific bankruptcy are bound for Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum; two non-profit railroad preservation groups teamed up to save two historic General Electric 44-tonner locomotives in New Jersey and New York; and a Baldwin “Shark” locomotive that hasn’t seen the light of day for decades made its first move outside in years.