Saturday, February 21, 2009

Transport: The Last BN Unit

This would be the last picture of a "pure Burlington Northern" locomotive I would ever take outside of a museum--long-stored C30-7 #5545 sat quietly at Pasco, Washington on 28-November-2008

TORONTO, ONTARIO - It was reported on various railroad enthusiast boards this week that two long-retired locomotives had been moved from Pasco, Washington to Alliance, Nebraska to be stripped of parts, probably in advance of scrapping. In some sense there was nothing unusual in that move that apparently started on 22-January-2009. To me, though, it was quite significant in that the move meant that I had probably seen my last "real BN" locomotive ever, outside of a museum.

When I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, seeing a freight train meant one thing--seeing Cascade Green, the primary color in the paint scheme of the Burlington Northern Railroad (BN). While the BN had been only been formed by a merger in 1970, by the time I started paying attention to trains, everything on the BN was painted in Cascade Green. At one point I even wrote that my blood flowed Cascade Green.

BNSF GP39V #2974 demonstrated "patched" Cascade Green paint, still common to this day, while GP39E #2917 demonstrated "pure BN" paint at the Rhodes control point in Seattle, Washington on 11-March-2006

In 1995, the BN ceased to exist as it merged with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe to form the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF). While the BNSF has been slow to repaint locomotives from its predecessors, unlike the BN, it was reasonably efficient at applying "patches" to locomotives to eliminate the old names and apply "BNSF," sometimes also renumbering the unit. The last time I would see an unpatched BN locomotive in regular service would be on 11-March-2006, when the Crew 2 Local in the Seattle area had one such unit mixed into its consist.

Burlington Northern GP39E #2917 was in the Crew 2 transfer train from Tacoma, Washington to Seattle, Washington as seen at the Rhodes control point in Seattle on 11-March-2006. It would be the last unpatched BN unit I would ever see in service.

While my days of seeing "pure Green Machines" on the mainline had ended, a nice reminder of the past still awaited me whenever I visited the Pasco, Washington freight yards. Stored there--apparently since 2002 though I did not see them until late 2005--were a pair of old coal-hauling locomotives (#5545 and #5549) built by General Electric in October 1978 that had been declared surplus and stored. These units, still in full Burlington Northern paint, never seemed to move, and even the pigeons that seemed to haunt them in 2005 apparently started to ignore them as the years went by.

Burlington Northern C30-7 #5549 seemed very popular with the pigeons in Pasco, Washington on 22-November-2005

I last saw those units in Pasco, Washington on 2-January-2009. I didn't even bother taking a picture, as they looked the same as they had for years and the lighting was not very good. With those units now moved off to probable oblivion, I likely won't see another. My picture at the top of this post from last November will probably stand as my last non-museum Burlington Northern picture. Another piece of my childhood is now just history.

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