Railnews Review 2023: Iconic Alco PA Locomotive Heads East For Preservation

There was a lot to be excited about in 2023 for fans of historic diesels, but the effort to finally get an Alco PA running might be the most exciting of all.

Railnews Review 2023: Iconic Alco PA Locomotive Heads East For Preservation

By Justin Franz 

This week, the editors of Railfan & Railroad Magazine are looking at some of the biggest stories in railroading in 2023. 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

For fans of historic diesel locomotives, there was a lot to be excited about in 2023. In New Jersey, a U34CH was cosmetically restored and an operational restoration moved forward. In Alberta, a surviving C40-8M “Draper Taper” found a new home at a museum. A Nickel Plate Road SD9 hit the main line once again. An effort to save a VIA Rail FP9 was kicked off. A Union Pacific “Centennial” ran again

But there was no denying what was the biggest diesel preservation story of 2023: The sale of one of the only surviving American Locomotive Company PAs to Alco-stronghold Genesee Valley Transportation

On March 2, GVT announced it had inked a deal with preservationist Doyle McCormack, to acquire “Nickel Plate Road 190” and bring it east to complete its operation restoration. 

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to obtain the Spirit of St. Louis of locomotives,” said Michael Thomas, president of GVT Rail, on the occasion of the sale. “On behalf of our ownership group and the entire team at GVT Rail, we are ecstatic that Doyle has entrusted us with the stewardship of his great gift to rail preservation.”

The locomotive was built for Santa Fe in 1948 as 62L and sold to Delaware & Hudson in 1967, where it was used to power passenger trains between Albany and Montreal, as well as excursions across the system. In 1977, the Alcos had a brief stint in commuter service in Boston for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority before being shipped to Mexico in 1978. The PAs were used in Mexico for a few years but were eventually retired. Two of the PAs remain south of the border in museums.

On April 27, Nickel Plate Road PA-4 190 crosses Lake Pend Oreille at Sandpoint, Idaho, on an eastbound BNSF Railway freight bound for Kansas City, where it was interchanged to Norfolk Southern. Photo by Robert Spinuzzi.

In 2000, McCormack — perhaps best known as the caretaker for Southern Pacific 4-8-4 “Daylight” 4449 — teamed up with Smithsonian Curator of Technology and Transportation Bill Withuhn to bring two of the PAs home to the United States — or at least what was left of them. That year the skeletons of D&H 16 and 18 headed north to Oregon. The remains of 16 eventually went to the Museum of the American Railroad in Texas, which is currently working on a cosmetic restoration of the locomotive into its original Santa Fe appearance.

D&H 18 was moved to Portland’s Brooklyn Yard and later the Oregon Rail Heritage Center where McCormack spearheaded its restoration in his spare time. McCormack acquired a set of A1A trucks to replace the ones that had been lost in Mexico and purchased a wrecked BC Rail M420B to harvest its 12-251C engine, traction motors and electrical system to be installed in the PA.

When it came time to paint the PA, McCormack drew inspiration from his childhood. His father worked for the NKP and when McCormack was 12 he got a cab ride on the original 190. He said he became fascinated with the PAs, and specifically 190, so painting his locomotive into the blue and white of the NKP was a no-brainer.

“When I got the engine, it needed a paint job, and I figured I’d put it in my paint job: I needed a Nickel Plate fix,” McCormack said in a 2014 interview. “You know how kids are, they get obsessed with something and, well, I never let that obsession go.”

By 2014, the locomotive was far enough along that it was able to attend “Streamliners at Spencer” in North Carolina. Upon returning to Portland, McCormack continued to work on the locomotive. While 190 has been started up, it has not yet run under its own power.

In May, the locomotive left the Pacific Northwest and headed eastbound for GVT’s shop in Scranton, Pa., arriving on the 19th. After being on display at Steamtown National Historic Site for a month, the locomotive was moved to the Von Stoch Locomotive Shop to complete the restoration McCormack began

Nickel Plate 190

Nickel Plate Road 190 at GVT’s Von Storch Shops on June 21. Photo by Otto Vondrak. 

This article was posted on: December 26, 2023