Friday, November 16, 2012

Today's Train of Though- Climate Change, November 16th 2012

Today's train of thought takes us trackside to a pond Down East to highlight the change of seasons. What some people refer to as 'climate change', many in the Northeast simply refer to as 'fall', although the lead locomotive depicted above has come a long way since hauling fast freight and minerals through under the blazing sun of California's Mojave desert.

Here, contributor Dan Nelson caught Pan Am/Maine Central SD40-2M #617 roaring past a pond in Auburn, ME with symbol freight NMSE [Northern Maine Jct/Hermon, ME to the CSX Yard at SElkirk, NY] on October 9th, 2010.

The first two units are sporting a classy red and silver that was actually the colors of California's Trona Railway. The lead unit started out life as in May 1974 as Santa Fe SD45-2 #5710 before being rebuilt to SD40-2 standards in the 1990s and purchased by California shortline Trona Railway, where it wore the number 3003. The 30 mile line hauls soda ash, borax, coal and potash in the Mojave Desert, connecting with the Union Pacific.

In 2004, after a little over a decade in service on the Trona, the #3003 and its brethern had been sold to Helm Leasing as the line purchased a handful of former Southern Pacific and Union Pacific SD40T-2 Tunnel Motors. The red and silver units criss-crossed the country as a rent-a-wreck in service on the BNSF, Norfolk Southern, CSX, Union Pacific and shorlines or regionals like the Aberdeen, Carolina & Western or Pan Am.

By late 2009, the unit was one of dozens of six-axle 'rent-a-wrecks' purchased by Pan Am in anticipation of faster track speeds and more frequent trains on the Mechanicsville NY to Ayer, MA 'Patriot Corridor' [although in this instance, she's depicted hustling finished paper products and kaolin empties back to the CSX interchange- NANESB!].  Sister units 616 and 618- also rebuilt from former Santa Fe SD45-2s-  arrived in New England around the same time wearing Trona's distincitve colors. Hauling forestry products through Maine at or near fall's peak foliage season much be quite a change of pace from dragging minerals through the blistering heat of the Mojave Desert- even before being rebuilt and sold to the Trona, #617 was no stranger to the harsh desert climate that Santa Fe's Transcontiental main line passed through.

By the spring of 2012, the Trona paint scheme was gone from #617 as she was repainted into Pan Am's solid blue scheme and had Pan Am lettering and the globe logo applied at the Providence & Worcerster shops in Worcester, MA.

Interestingly, none of of the tunnel motors soldiering on for the Trona wear the railroad's silver and red scheme- the locomotives are still painted in Southern Pacific or Union Pacific colors while as of this summer, Pan Am #618 was reportedly still in Trona colors.

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