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Cody’s Trackside Finds: A layout-sized engine terminal

By Cody Grivno | August 5, 2021

Learn about this BNSF Ry. facility in Sioux Falls, S.D.

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Metal enginehouse and sand tower with three BNSF Ry. road locomotives parked by building.
Metal enginehouse and sand tower with three BNSF Ry. road locomotives parked by building.
The BNSF Ry. locomotive terminal in downtown Sioux Falls, S.D., has a footprint that would fit neatly on a model railroad. The enginehouse can hold two four-axle road locomotives. Cody Grivno photo

When you think of engine facilities on the BNSF Ry., images of large, multi-bay structures; wash racks; and sand towers and fuel columns that can handle 10 or more locomotives at a time probably come to mind. And that makes perfect senses considering the railroad’s size. BNSF has facilities like this in Alliance (Neb. and Texas); Barstow and Commerce, Calif.; Chicago; Havre, Mont.; Lincoln, Neb.; Minneapolis; Kansas City, Kan.; and Seattle.

However, inbetween those major shops are smaller terminals. While railfanning the BNSF in Sioux Falls, S.D., I came across a terminal that looked like something plucked right off a model railroad. The heart of the facility is a metal enginehouse that can house two four-axle road locomotives. The structure dates back to the mid-1950s when predecessor Great Northern operated the line.

Metal enginehouse with worn white and green paint and two BNSF Ry. road locomotives parked next to it.
BNSF Ry. GP50 no. 3125 and GP39-3 no. 2557 wait between assignments on the east side of the enginehouse. The structure was built in the mid-1950s for predecessor Great Northern Ry. Cody Grivno photo

On the west side of the structure is a single-story bump-out. This is where train crews go on duty. It also houses a locker room, lunchroom, and wash facilities. As you can see in the image, they’ve added some outdoor storage using a 20-foot intermodal container and a barn-shaped garden shed, both painted beige.

Metal enginehouse with one-story bump-out and assorted road locomotives in background.
This photo taken during an earlier visit shows the green and white paint in better repair. The west side of the building has a one-story bump-out. This part of the building is where crews go on duty. It also houses locker rooms, a lunchroom, and wash facilities. Cody Grivno photo

To the southeast of the building is a two-track sanding tower. The tower is located between two sidings where locomotives are stored outside between assignments. The tower doesn’t serve the track that goes into the enginehouse.

Blue two-track sanding tower with BNSF Ry. road locomotive in background.
The sanding tower is located between two sidings where locomotives are stored outside between assignments. In the background is BNSF Ry. GP25 no. 3159. The unit was built in November 1985 as Burlington Northern 3159 with an extended cab for five-man crews. Cody Grivno photo

What type of work goes on here? The forces at Sioux Falls take care of what are called “running repairs.” Refueling and sanding, changing burned out headlight and ditch light bulbs, and replacing brake shoes are just a few examples. The big stuff is left to one of the major shops listed above.

Modeling considerations
The Sioux Falls enginehouse could be scratchbuilt using styrene and assorted detail parts for items like the roof vents, chimney, windows, and doors. If you’re looking for some off-the-shelf options to re-create a scene similar to this, here are a few options:

Metal single-track enginehouse
Monroe Models (2219 [HO], 9219 [N])
Pikestuff (541-5000 [HO]), 541-8002 [N])
Wm. K. Walthers Inc. (933-2985 [HO])

Sand tower
American Limited Models (5500 [HO assembled] and 5100 [HO kit])
Plastruct (1011 [HO])
Stewart Products (115 [HO], 1114 [N])
Wm. K. Walthers Inc. (933-3182 [HO], 933-38313 [N])

3 thoughts on “Cody’s Trackside Finds: A layout-sized engine terminal

  1. This looks strangely like the Pikestuff engine house and sand tower servicing center on my layout. Thanks Cody, I hoped there was one out there somewhere like my modeled attempt.

  2. One thing I don’t see is any fueling pipe or stand. Usually on an incoming or outgoing track. Or were the locos fueled directly from a truck?

    Roger Thomas

    1. The Willamette & Pacific runs behind where I work and they frequently have a basic fuel truck show up to fill up the locos on that particular line. It may be the same situation here.

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