News & Reviews News Wire Illinois museum acquires well-traveled electric locomotive from New England NEWSWIRE

Illinois museum acquires well-traveled electric locomotive from New England NEWSWIRE

By Brian Schmidt | August 19, 2015

| Last updated on November 3, 2020

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Conrail E33 No. 4601 rests at the Railroad Museum of New England’s yard on April 9, 1988, after arriving from GE’s Erie, Pa., facility. ​The hole behind cab is where the main transformer was removed by GE.
Howard Pincus
OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. – The Illinois Railway Museum will acquire a piece of railroad history from the east: former Conrail E33 electric No. 4601.

Railroad Museum of New England Chairman Howard Pincus confirms the transaction. “[Illinois Railway Museum Executive Director] Nick Kallas contacted me in mid-2010 to see if 4601 was available,” Pincus tells Trains News Wire. “We made an agreement for IRM to acquire the unit in September 2010. Changes in collection focus at RMNE made 4601 surplus to our organization.”

Kallas tells Trains News Wire that the acquisition owes a lot to Norfolk Southern by donating six surplus GE type-752 traction motors to IRM, who used the parts to broker a deal with the folks in Connecticut for the locomotive. “NS really made it possible,” he says.

Pincus says the locomotive will leave Old Saybrook later Wednesday via Providence & Worcester.

“The whole move jelled in the past month or so,” Kallas says. “We finally got everything done to the locomotive for movement on its own wheels.” He says that entailed a list of work, including removal of the traction motor brushes, brake work, painting handrails and cut levers white for better visibility, updating safety stencils, and replacing the number boards. His museum worked with NS, P&W, and Amtrak to ensure the locomotive was safe for transport and would fit the clearances on the route.

General Electric built the 11,000-volt, six-axle locomotive in 1956 for coal-hauler Virginian Railway. The motor saw five Class I railroad owners in its 23-year freight-hauling career, and carried three different model designations during that time.

Kallas says the locomotive will move to Norfolk Southern’s Altoona, Pa., shops for evaluation before any possible work starts. Regarding possible paint schemes, he says, “We really need to put our heads together on that,” noting that there are many stakeholders in the discussion. He adds that it is still too early to say when the locomotive might arrive on museum property in Union.

The Illinois Railway Museum already has two large electric motors in its collection: Chicago South Shore & South Bend “Little Joe” No. 803 and Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 No. 4927. It also holds a number of interurban railroad freight motors and passenger cars from Illinois Terminal, Iowa Traction, The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co., and others.

Electric traction technology is one area of focus for the group, Kallas tells Trains News Wire. He says the addition of the E33, although it never ran in the state, will help with the interpretation of technology, and the overall history of one railroad that did: Conrail. Kallas says he is “hopeful” that one day the museum can even acquire an EMD-built Amtrak AEM-7 electric locomotive for its collection to further that mission of technology preservation.

Three Virginian-painted E33s, known as EL-C units on the road, approach Princeton, W.Va., in September 1960, a year after the Norfolk & Western merger. The units, sporting new N&W numbers here, were delivered as Nos. 130-141.
Harold Cavanaugh
No. 4601 began life in October 1956 as Virginian Railway “EL-C” No. 131. It was conveyed to the Norfolk & Western with its acquisition of the Virginian in 1959. Deemed surplus, the locomotive and 11 mates were sold to the bankrupt New Haven Railroad in 1963, carrying No. 300 and an “EF-4” model designation on the New England road’s roster. The motors then went to Penn Central in the 4600-series with the final E33 model designation, a classification they kept upon the creation of Conrail in 1976.

In 1979, Conrail pulled the plug on electric freight operations and the units sat in storage for a number of years before going to GE for trade-in credit on new diesels in 1982. The Railroad Museum of New England acquired No. 4601 from GE in 1987, and it was delivered to the Connecticut museum property in 1988.

One other E33 is preserved: Virginian-painted No. 135 at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.

For more stories like this, check out our special “Locomotives” page, powered by Locomotive magazine!

A pair of New Haven E33s, called EF-4s by the road, rolls through Cedar Hill Yard in New Haven, Conn., in fall 1964. A high-voltage jumper cable connections the units.
Harold Cavanaugh

19 thoughts on “Illinois museum acquires well-traveled electric locomotive from New England NEWSWIRE

  1. I live only an hour away from IRM so this is good news for me. Another new engine to observer on my next visit. 🙂

  2. Conrail was still hauling freight trains with electric locomotives into 1981 at Potomac Yard south of Washington, DC. Only remember GG1 type but statement in article is erroneous.

  3. @ Austin Strenecky, an AEM7 – Amtrak # 915 – now resides at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, got there in mid-June. Amtrak being the way it is, I think they sent the worst-looking one to be "saved".

  4. Here's another vote for the New Haven colors. I was stationed at New London in1969-70, just after the NH was taken over by PC. As the EF4s were shipped out by PC right after the takeover, I never got to see one run in New Haven territory. It would be great to see an EF4 return to its most historically significant colors.

  5. There is an E33 in Roanoke in Virginia paint. Looks like they spent about 5 years as NH, 8 as PC and 3 as Conrail – although few were blue for any period of time. The NH scheme looked nice. How about that one?

  6. CR 4601 has been sitting in the woods for too long, it's unfortunate that RMNE never came up with the funds to do anything substantial with it. I agree with Mike Matalis – it will be nice to see it restored to its original Virginian livery! BTW, the P&W extra move with the 4601 went north onto the P&W from Amtrak at Groton, CT at 12:54PM on 8/19, I understand that it is to get a "cosmetic refreshing" in Altoona before going on to Illinois.

  7. I remember these beasts when the NH got them: massive. I believe that at least one of them hit the ground somewhere along the Hells Gate route thru an act of vandalism.

  8. Yet another unneeded acquisition by the Illinois Rust Museum. A fine locomotive but it has no relevance to the midwest. When will IRM realize it can't save everything. They need to focus or risk financial disaster.

  9. I hope they put the New Haven paint on them. I remember seeing them in a two engine lash up, howling through Green's Farms on the run into New York before Conrail, hauling TOFC at night doing what seemed to me 50 mph. Loud.

  10. I'd go for McGinnis Orange. On the NY, NH & H, we called them "bricks". VGN would be nice. I'd say no to N&W, PC, and CR monochromes. I understand there are some ex-NYC motors hidden in the woods near Albany. Would be nice to save them, too.

  11. I sure hope the IRM can afford the upkeep and cosmetic restoration, seems like a lot of museums get equipment that they can't take care of. Sure is an impressive locomotive.

  12. As a NH fan who lives in New England, I find this depressing news. Oh, it's great that IRM will probably fix her up right, but it's sad that our local railroad history has, once again, been bartered away. Overhead AC power is a very important part of local railroad history, but now you won't find a single AC motor preserved in all of New England…or New York for that matter.

  13. I remember working in New Haven when these arrived. Trains magazine was so excited that they published an article, "Why the New Haven re-electrified", We had high hopes for these electrics hauling freight over Hell Gate bridge before the Penn Central merger raised its ugly head. Definitely paint her orange.

  14. These motors were really powerful. Saying they had 3300 HP doesn't do them justice. I'd like to see it in something different, since there's one in Virginian blue/yellow, how about Penn Central black with worms? They spent a lot of time running on NH and then PC with almost no maintance and as I said, they could pull like crazy.

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