Christopher Brimley updated June 2, 2011

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  • The First Turbo SD: Part 3

    by George Melvin

    A quartet of 11-month-old CB&Q SD24s wheel tonnage through Sandwich, IL, on April 24, 1960. The second unit is the ill-fated 508, the first of the series to be retired. Standard equipment included the high short hood, auxiliary light unit above the standard headlights and firecracker antenna centered on the front edge of the cab roof. Decals: Microscale 87-15.
    Model Railroading - November 2004 - Page 22

    The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) was better known simply as the Burlington, particularlyby the late 1950s and the time of the SD24. The road waseven more dedicated to EMD products than the Santa Fe,directly serving the locomotive plant at LaGrange, IL,along its main route west from Chicago. Like the Santa Fe,they had a fleet of older EMD cab units, 32 FT's built in1943 and 1944 and ten slightly newer F2s built in 1946.But unlike the Santa Fe, they had experience with EMD six-motor road switchers, having acquired 37 SD7s in1952-’53 and 80 SD9s between 1954 and 1957. The SD7sand SD9s had been bought to replace steam in the hilly western region of the railroad and in coal service in southern Illinois, but their capabilities in other classes of service had been proven. A few of each model were even equipped with steam genera-tors for passenger train duty.

    The road’s purchase of 16SD24s in May of 1959 was concurrent with the delivery of the first of the Santa Fe’sSD24 fleet, and some sources claim that the first CB&Q unit was the first SD24 built.Santa Fe 900 has a lower builder’s order number and lower serial number, but history has proved that these facts are not always solid evidence to determine the sequence of construction at the builder. The units were numbered 500-515, following the 300 series applied to the SD7 and 400 series to the SD9. This implied a logic that they were a continuation of the existing SD fleet, but this small group of SD24s broke a few conventions on the Burlington.They were the first turbocharged road engines purchased from any builder. They were the last model equipped with the older-style high, short hood but were the first engines delivered to the Burlington in the new Chinese Red and gray paint with“Burlington” spelt out on both long hoods. This was a solid departure from the more conservative black and gray that had been the road switcher standard, with the “Way of the Zephyrs” on one hood and “Everywhere West” on the opposite. This new livery would become identified as representing the “new” Burlington, with less emphasis on passenger service and making freight power as eye-catching as the fleet of silver passenger units of the previous years.

    Model Railroading - November 2004 - Page 23

    The new paint scheme had, however, been used in two instances just prior to the arrival of the SD24s. Subsidiary Colorado & Southern (C&S) took delivery of 11 SD9s in the red scheme one month before the SD24s were delivered, and two older road switchers, C&S SD9 828 and CB&Q GP9 279 were repainted into the new image earlier that same spring. Early action photos depict these units running in solid sets of up to four units, but as more high-horsepower units were purchased during the early 1960s, they were mixed with other units.

    The moment in the limelight for the SD24 as the only group of new high-horsepower engines was brief as the road bought 36 GP20s between February and April 1961, less than two years after the debut of the SD24s. The GP20s were followed in rapid succession with deliveries of GP30s, GP35s and GP40s between 1962 and 1967. It was 1969 before that final order of SD units arrived on the Burlington; 15 SD45s numbered 516-530, right behind the SD24s.

    On March 2, 1970, the Burlington became a major component the longest railroad in the country as the Burlington Northern was formed. About this time, unit 508 was wrecked and was officially retired on March 31st. Whether it was wrecked before or after the merger is unclear, but it was the first SD24 to be retired by any of the models five owners. The group was renumbered 6240-6255, but the new number was not applied to the 508. The renumbering brought all six-motor EMD road switchers into the 6000 number series with the older SD's from the CB&Q grouped with those from the Great Northern and numbered 6100-6206. The Burlington SD24s were the only units of that model brought to the merger. The 15 SD45s joined similar units from the Great Northern and Northern Pacific in a 6400 number series.

    Repainting into the BN Cascade Green was not immediate, and the units kept their CB&Q red with BN initials and number applied on the cab side where the original number had been. The earliest repaint I found a record of was unit 6255 repainted by July 1972. The latest photo found of an SD24 in the original paint was unit 6249 still red in the spring of 1975. Four units, 6240-6243, were assigned to hump-yard duty at North town Yard in Minneapolis in 1974 or 1975, but other evidence of downgrading does not appear. Unit 6253 appeared with a chopped nose about this time, probably the result of rebuilding after a wreck. The earliest photo found of it with the new low nose was taken in October 1975.

    CB&Q SD24 501 is a bit grimy in this June 1965 view at Eola, IL. Note the perforated-steel footboards and overhang on the front walkway to allow more room to walk across the end of the unit. The CB&Q SD24s were fitted with winterization hatches over the forward 48 cooling fan. Decals: Microscale 87-15.
    Model Railroading - November 2004 - Page 24 Model Railroading - November 2004 - Page 25

    The first unit to leave the roster after the 508 in 1970 was unit 6247, retired and sold for scrap in December 1981. Within seven months, the remaining 14 units were retired and traded to General Electric in June and July of 1982 for credit on an order of new power. The following year, four of them (6244, 6250, 6252 and 6255) were resold by GE to shortline Maryland Midland (MMID).

    This Maryland Midland was formed in October 1983 to operate a 50-mile stretch of the former Western Maryland mainline. The line was hilly, and the tonnage, primarily cement, was heavy, so the quartet of big SD's seemed a good fit. However, they were too much engine for the line and within two years were being replaced with smaller nonturbocharged four-axle Geep's and F7s. During their time at MMID, the units worn their BN green livery with the name painted out and small MMID logos applied. This brief stint on the MMID provided the reprieve from scrapping that allowed all four of the SD24s to continue in service as unrebuilt SD24s.

    Unit 6244 went to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL, where it is being restored to operate as CB&Q 504 in Chinese Red! Unit 6252 was sold to Peavey Grain in 1986. Units 6250 and 6255 were sold to the Steamtown Foundation in Scranton, PA. Unit 6250 was even briefly lettered Lackawanna Railroad 880 (the Lackawanna never owned an SD unit). After a year at Steamtown, they were sold to locomotive dealer George Silcott and then to National Rail Equipment, arriving there in 1989. Shortline Fox River Valley (FRV) was started up in southern Wisconsin in 1988 and acquired these two SD24s in May 1989, on the units 30th birthday. The FRW repainted them bright red and yellow and renumbered them 2401 and 2402. Now these two units were again as bright as when delivered in the Chinese Red three decades before! Four years later, the FRV was taken over by Wisconsin Central, and the two SD24s went to WC as part of the deal and as of 2000, were stored on the WC.

    Next month, we will examine the fleet of 48 SD24s owned by the Southern Railway System.

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2 comments
  • Karl Rethwisch
    Karl Rethwisch RED SD24's - - - beautiful but not extraordinarily GOOD engines. They rode like a Cadilac !!! They were the worlds FIRST SD40, as far as HP was concerned. Yes, there IS a story about that.
    June 2, 2011
  • John Batty
    John Batty Thank you The article was very informative
    June 3, 2011