Railroads & Locomotives Locomotives Class I power finds its way back into the fold

Class I power finds its way back into the fold

By Chris Guss | July 21, 2023

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Two red locomotives leading freight train in flat territory.
A pair of DM&E SD40s power a Canadian Pacific train south of Rock Falls, Iowa, on Oct. 3, 2010. Both still wear Canadian Pacific’s “Dual Flag” scheme, only used for four years in the mid-1990s. The lead locomotive would last until 2016 on CP’s roster, while the trailing locomotive would be purged in 2012. Chris Guss

The traditional life cycle for new locomotives on a Class I roster would be revenue service, followed by lease return if the railroad leased the power or retirement and sale if they were purchased. In a handful of cases, power that departed a Class I roster will find its way back into its original owner’s fleet down the road.

CSX Transportation and Canadian Pacific both recently purchased railroads that brought back some of their older locomotives to the roster. CSX’s acquisition of Pan Am Railways last year included 24 former CSX General Electric C40-8s. These units have been folded into the active roster, with at least one repainted back into corporate colors. Canadian Pacific’s 2020 purchase of Central Maine & Quebec Railway saw the return of the popular cowl design to CP’s roster when 10 SD40-2Fs, purchased new by CP in 1988, returned home. The railroad continues to use most of them. Some have been rebuilt and repainted, with one used for the company’s hydrogen fuel-cell locomotive test project.

This is not the first such return for Canadian Pacific units. CP sold a number of SD40s to Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern in 1999. The units were in service on DM&E until CP bought DM&E in 2007. Many then spent almost a decade serving their original owner before departing the roster for a second and final time.

Illinois Central’s 1985 sale of its Chicago to Omaha mainline and associated branches included 80 former rebuilt first-generation EMD locomotives to help start Chicago Central & Pacific. Less than a decade later, Illinois Central would repurchase CC&P, bringing many of the units spun off with the sale.

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