Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Last Fleet of GE 70 Tonners Retired

The June issue of Trains magazine reported that the last "substantial" fleet of General Electric 70-Ton locomotives has been retired from California's Modesto & Empire Traction Company, where the oldest of them - #600 - has seen 63 years of continuous service. The tenacious little 660 horsepower diesel switchers were no match for modern high-efficiency railroading, where the M&ET was having to use as many as seven of the tough little locomotives at a time to move 100-car unit trains of grain to transcontinental giants Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

They were replaced by R.J. Corman Railpower RP20BD genset locomotives, which can pull the same size trains with just three locos. Genset locomotives ingeniously replace the single huge engine typically found in a diesel-electric locomotive with two to four much smaller engines that are brought on and off line by a controlling computer as horsepower is needed. The result is a tremendous increase in efficiency and environmental performance.

The M&ET is offering all but one of their venerable 70 tonners for sale to good homes if any of you has $95,000 burning a hole in your pocket. Understandably, they are keeping #600 for nostalgic reasons.

And while this was the last fleet of GE 70 tonners, there are still many singletons and pairs switching industrial sites and shortline railyards around the western hemisphere. The TFRR's own 70 tonners - #501 and #502 - were purchased in 1948 and run until the demise of the line in 1961, but I have never heard any details of their movement and/or disposition from there. Wouldn't it be something if either of them was still in service today!

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