Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Blue in the Face, February 12th 2013

Today's train of thought takes us to a frigid Rocky Mountain State at the height of wintertime.

Railpictures.net contributor Sal Crisanti caught Oakway SD60 #9076 leading a matched set of blue and white SD60's on BNSF local R-COL4211 at Long's Peak Colorado in December 2007. Once upon a time, this fleet of 100-strong EMD's painted in EMD Demonstrator colors could be found on a variety of high priority trains throughout the Burlington Northern system. As part of an industry first in 1986, the Burlington Northern entered into a unique arrangement with Cornnel Rice & Sugar subsidiary Oakway, Inc where the BN would pay Oakway based on the electrical energy exerted by the then-new SD60s, not by the mile or hour.

And for more than 20 years, the blue and white six-axle behemoths could be found systemwide handling everything from hotshot intermodal trains to long-distance coal drags from Wyoming's Powder River Basin. Even after the merger between Burlington Northern and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, as well as the advent of never locomotives, the prolific SD60s got around.

However, with the 2008 economic crisis looming and fewer freight trains running nationwide in the subsequent recession, most of the Oakways were put into storage along with many of BNSF's second generation units. With some traffic rebounding, many of them were pulled out of storage and put back into service on much lower priority freights or locals- or sublet to other railroads to repay horsepower hours owed.

While some Oakways- now owned by 3rd party leasing outfits like GATX- are still on BNSF property, much of the original fleet has been broken up. Two are in service on the Providence & Worcester as GATX Lease units while seven have made their way to the New York, Susquehanna & Western and are painted in that line's 'Yellowjacket' colors. However, Canadian National has snapped up the lion's share of the EMDs that started out in the Oakway fleet and is currently repainting and upgrading 42 of the ex-Oakway units.

As a matter of fact, SD60 #9076 currently lives on as Canadian National #5431. Given CN's reach, some of the former Oakways could be anywhere from Nova Scotia to New Orleans to the North West Territories. But in the scene captured above, Sal Cristanti caught the blue and white behemoth blending in almost seamlessly with the frigid, clear Colorado sky as she toiled away in suburban Boulder, CO.

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