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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Illinois Railway Museum acquires SD50

Illinois Railway Museum acquires SD50

By Steve Smedley | November 2, 2022

Locomotive will be seventh C&NW diesel and 26th EMD in collection

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Yellow and green diesel locomotive
Yellow and green diesel locomotive
The Illinois Railway Museum has acquired this former Chicago & North Western SD50, shown at Silvis, Ill., on Oct. 28, 2022. Erik Rasmussen

UNION, Ill. — Former Chicago & North Western Railway SD50 No. 7009 is headed to the Illinois Railway Museum after two benefactors provided the funds to purchase the locomotive from the dead line at National Railway Equipment in Silvis, Ill.

IRM says the locomotive is the first SD50 to be preserved by a museum.

The six-axle locomotive rolled off the Electro-Motive Division assembly line in LaGrange, Ill., in November 1985. It was one of 35 SD50s ordered by the CNW for use in the Powder River coal pool, followed by an order for 55 SD60s in 1986. These were the last EMD locomotives ordered by CNW prior to its merger with Union Pacific in 1995.

Externally, the locomotives were identical except for the winterization hatch on the SD60 order. The SD50 gained a reputation for engine failures with its 3,500-hp 645F prime mover; the SD60 featured the new 16-cylinder EMD 710G3A, and a computer-controlled electrical system.

“The 7009 is a very significant acquisition for us,” said Jamie Koloanowski, IRM’s curator of diesel locomotives. “Not only is it representative of one of Chicago’s legendary railroads and built by Electro-Motive right here in Chicagoland, but it is also in remarkably original condition, not having been rebuilt with aftermarket upgrades. It even still wears its original C&NW paint applied at the factory. Its historic fabric is extremely complete.”

The museum said in a press release that the SD50’s acquisition comes as other locomotives of the model continue to operate in common-carrier service on a variety of regional and short line railroads. At IRM, 7009 will be the seventh C&NW locomotive and the 26th EMD locomotive in the Museum’s diesel collection, considered by many to be the most comprehensive in preservation.

Dave Allenson, a former Chicago & North Western engineer, weighed in on the 7000 series.

“Overall, I liked them,” he said. “They weren’t the greatest on coal trains; the GEs were much better. They had the super series wheel-slip control, so they were able to give more adhesion than a SD40-2. The system allowed a certain amount of slippage; the wheels would just sing. And they had good dynamic brakes on them. … The dynamics were great on them, but they were loud. The dynamic brake grid was relocated to right behind the cab.”

25 thoughts on “Illinois Railway Museum acquires SD50

  1. If IRM is a “no kill shelter” for Diesels, look at what they’ve done to much of their steam collection. Most have much of their running gear scrapped.

    1. IRM has 27 steam articles. 7 of which have operated on the property.

      IRM has 50 diesels, (51 if you count this one) but I know that at least 16 are sitting lashed up outside and appear to be inoperable.

      They just finished building a new diesel barn.

      I find their museum mix very fascinating, its not just the steam and diesels, interurbans, railbuses, some really not typical rail museum stuff.

      But they do need some help with their box car/reefer collection. Rusting away comes to mind.

  2. John, the old potato – potatoe. The people who made the most money agreed to the merger/buyout (buyout being key here ,private purchase of stock).

  3. I wish articles wouldn’t refer to the C&NW being a merger with the UP.
    It was a take over by the UP.

    1. CNW agreed to be taken over by the UP. A merger by any other name, but does this help?

      Mergers are when 2 parties agree to come together. A take over is when the suitor makes a hostile or unsolicited bid to buy out the other.

      UP made no threats or unsolicited bids. UP already had made market or privately held purchases of the voting majority of the stock, the remaining shareholders agreed to sell the rest to UP at a price that met there requirements.

      It was after the Rock Island debacle that UP started taking a financial interest in the CNW to protect the access to Chicago they didn’t get through CRIP. The Powder River coal effort simply accelerated it.

    2. Given the condition of the physical plant of the CRI&P and CNW, I’d say UP got the better end of the deal. CNW was double tracked across the entire state of Iowa, whereas the Rock Island was only double tracked through Des Moines, and the second track was pulled up in the 1970s.

  4. As for IRM, no one knows if the two benefactors also provided the funds to have it restored, perhaps at Silvis as well. So all I can say is everyone just lighten up until the rest of the story is told.

    Having been to many railroad museums, *all* of them have their merits and demerits. *All* of them have loads of good intentions, *all* of them don’t have the funding to match their intentions.

    The US is scattered with various rail museums, probably 80% of them surviving on their Polar Express outing alone. Even more have active steam restorations requiring nearly a million dollars to reach FRA certification. There are two Baldwin Sharkfins still sitting an industrial building in the Upper Peninsula and will be until the money meets ambition.

    Most museums will collect articles for their own displays, some will collect to acquire enough assets to trade for something valuable. Zoos do this. Art museums do this, car museums do it and so do military museums.

  5. Sounds weird, but I remember this unit (7009). I remember seeing it from several vantage points. Repetition breeds familiarity I guess. The last time I saw it was on the UP West Line as part of a container pull going east to Proviso. It used to be paired with 7006 before the GE 4400AC units arrived.

  6. A bit of vitriol & snark on the comment string this afternoon perhaps?

    Mr. Carleton: Yes does the time go? I remember when the C&NW SD-50s were new ….

    1. I remember brand new SD-50s pulling the coal trains to the power plant where I started my career in industry. I saw three-unit sets replaced by four unit sets of SD40s, to be replaced by three unit sets of Dash-8s, and replaced by three-then-two unit sets of AC44s. Then came my time in railroading. I’m not sure I want to be around that day when one of the locomotives I delivered goes out to heritage pasture.

    1. They were new 3 years after I retired / took severance pay from the BN. I feel really old!

  7. John, make sure you place yourself on the ban list as well. This was an article about a museum acquiring a locomotive. Whether you agree with it or not is your business. You call out a commenter in here and want him removed because he replied to your post, and you didnt like it. But you also took something like a simple article about a locomotive and used it as a platform not once, but twice, to bash IRM. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

  8. John Griffin you are wrong, child-like and rude. Maybe you should step out of mommie’s basement and check out the real world

  9. IRM is a no-kill shelter for railroad equipment. IRM does not really do de-acquisitions. And IRM has no doubt saved stuff that railfans would otherwise say “we should have saved one of those”.

    1. I know a thing or two about preservation. This locomotive could’ve gone elsewhere and actually have received attention. Mark my works, is Gp50 will sit in a yard for years and rust away. IRM may be a no kill shelter, but they are damaging the preservation industry. Trust me.

    2. John, why should I (or anyone else) “trust you” about IRM “damaging the preservation industry”? Because you say so? Because you pout and spew vitriol? If you’re so concerned, go down to Union and volunteer to keep it up. Or instead of writing negativity here, write a check to IRM specifically to help get 7009 (or whatever your favorite piece of railroadiana is) back online.

    3. It’s obvious you don’t stay abreast with policies at IRM. Yes, they have a large collection and they continue to build new barns to shelter their equipment. They do from time to time sell equipment to other organizations that either are already represented in the collection, too large for museum operations or have no hope of restoring. And yes, from time to time they do scrap equipment- some of which was bought specifically for spare parts.

  10. IRM has way too much stuff. Most of it sits around and collects rust. This locomotive would’ve been better off going somewhere else that can actually take care of it.

    1. You are grossly wrong. IRM continues to build large new barns to shelter their ever expanding collection. In fact you can log onto their website and donate to the next planned barn. They also have links for the various departments: Steam, Diesel, Electric, Freight, Bus, Track, Building and Grounds where one can donate for restoration projects. The Hicks Car Works blog is a great way to stay abreast with the restoration work of the electric department. They also have a link in this blog that list equipment that has been deassessed, with some going to other museums. As with all museums, the pace of restoration is dependent on dollars and volunteers. We all have seen the sad images of rotting and rusting equipment at various museums and private organizations. IRM has been successful in preserving and currently has strict financial policies in place before accepting or acquiring new equipment.

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