Today, major railroads have at least one major shop that handles heavy locomotive work. This facility can perform major rebuilds, wreck repairs, overhauls, paint, and even new locomotive construction. These heavy locomotive shops can be newer facilities such as Union Pacific’s Downing B.
Jenks shop in North Little Rock, Ark., that was constructed in 1984, or housed in buildings built in the steam era and repurposed when diesels took over. BNSF Railway’s shop in Topeka, Kansas, is one such example and has been operated by BNSF and predecessor Santa Fe for almost 150 years.
While these shops are more specialty in nature, the railroads also have a number of small-to-medium-sized facilities across their system to handle light-to-moderate repairs that don’t require a trip to a heavy locomotive repair shop. Types of work handled by these shops can be as small as minor electrical work to replacement of traction motors, alternators, and other larger items that may fail and need replacement.
Before consolidations and reductions in the number of shops, the vast majority of work was performed in-house by a railroad’s own employees. There has been a trend to send more locomotive maintenance to third-party companies over the years. Ironically, many of these third-party companies have their businesses located in the same locomotive shops the Class I railroads vacated.
Some third-party shops can see a steady flow of work from a railroad, ranging from overhauling and/or upgrading older locomotives to smaller maintenance work for years while other railroads choose to send work to third-party companies more sparingly.
- BNSF – Topeka, Kansas
- Canadian National – Homewood, Ill.
- Canadian Pacific – St. Paul, Minn.
- CSX – Waycross, Ga.; Huntington, W.Va.; Cumberland, Md.
- Kansas City Southern – Shreveport, La.
- Norfolk Southern – Altoona, Pa.; Roanoke, Va.; Chattanooga, Tenn.
- Union Pacific – North Little Rock, Ark.