Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Taste the Train-bow, June 5th, 2013

Today's Train of Thought takes us to Oklahoma's panhandle. With all the vicious weather the Sooner State has been experiencing lately, consider this a gentle reminder that Mother Nature isn't necessarily out to murder every last soul that resides in tornado alley.

The 250+ mile Cimarron Valley Railroad got its start in 1996 after the newly formed BNSF decided to divest themselves of a cluster of trackage in southwestern Kansas, eastern Colorado and Oklahoma's panhandle. Having already taken over operations of a former Santa Fe branchline in southern New Mexico with the Southwestern Railroad, Western Railroad Builders purchased the former Santa Fe lines and formed the Cimarron Valley Railroad. The rather far-flung network was initially served by a half dozen former Rio Grande GP30s that were painted in a blue and white scheme almost reminiscent of Conrail. However, after a 2003 derailment, locomotives from sister Southwestern railroad began showing up on the CVR, including a pair of rare GP26s.

The GP26 was a model that was never offered by EMD. Instead, the only two GP26s ever made were rebuilt by the Illinois Central Gulf shops in Paducah, KY in the early 1980s. Basically the two GP26s are a pair of heavily modified former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio GP30s that still used the trucks from the ALCo FA-1s that the GM&O traded in to EMD. They were intended to be a pilot program for the ICG to market to other railroads with aging GP30/GP35 fleets but they never caught on. As it turns out, the Illinois Central Gulf was ahead of its time. In 1986, they sold off the Paducah shops in western Kentucky to VMV enterprises. By 1988, the Burlington Northern had approached VMV about rebuilding their aging fleet of GP30s and GP35s- to this day, many of those units are still in service on the BNSF using the GP39M or GP39V designation.

Here, contributor Drew Mitchum caught half the GP26 fleet idling outside of Boise City, OK in perfect 'storm light' in March 2008. Cimarron Valley GP26 #2601 and a former Rio Grande GP30 (unmodified) wait to proceed to the BNSF interchange in Northwestern Oklahoma. A brightly colored rainbow is bracketed by a weathered crossbuck and the CVR freight in Mitchum's perfectly composed shot.

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