Illinois museum acquires well-traveled electric locomotive from New England

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Conrail E33 No. 4601 rests at the Railroad Museum of New England's yard on April 9, 1988, after arriving from GE's Erie, Pa., facility. ‚ÄčThe hole behind cab is where the main transformer was removed by GE.
Howard Pincus
OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. – The Illinois Railway Museum will acquire a piece of railroad history from the east: former Conrail E33 electric No. 4601.

Railroad Museum of New England Chairman Howard Pincus confirms the transaction. “[Illinois Railway Museum Executive Director] Nick Kallas contacted me in mid-2010 to see if 4601 was available,” Pincus tells Trains News Wire. “We made an agreement for IRM to acquire the unit in September 2010. Changes in collection focus at RMNE made 4601 surplus to our organization.”

Kallas tells Trains News Wire that the acquisition owes a lot to Norfolk Southern by donating six surplus GE type-752 traction motors to IRM, who used the parts to broker a deal with the folks in Connecticut for the locomotive. "NS really made it possible," he says.

Pincus says the locomotive will leave Old Saybrook later Wednesday via Providence & Worcester.

"The whole move jelled in the past month or so," Kallas says. "We finally got everything done to the locomotive for movement on its own wheels." He says that entailed a list of work, including removal of the traction motor brushes, brake work, painting handrails and cut levers white for better visibility, updating safety stencils, and replacing the number boards. His museum worked with NS, P&W, and Amtrak to ensure the locomotive was safe for transport and would fit the clearances on the route.

General Electric built the 11,000-volt, six-axle locomotive in 1956 for coal-hauler Virginian Railway. The motor saw five Class I railroad owners in its 23-year freight-hauling career, and carried three different model designations during that time.

Kallas says the locomotive will move to Norfolk Southern's Altoona, Pa., shops for evaluation before any possible work starts. Regarding possible paint schemes, he says, "We really need to put our heads together on that," noting that there are many stakeholders in the discussion. He adds that it is still too early to say when the locomotive might arrive on museum property in Union.

The Illinois Railway Museum already has two large electric motors in its collection: Chicago South Shore & South Bend “Little Joe” No. 803 and Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 No. 4927. It also holds a number of interurban railroad freight motors and passenger cars from Illinois Terminal, Iowa Traction, The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co., and others.

Electric traction technology is one area of focus for the group, Kallas tells Trains News Wire. He says the addition of the E33, although it never ran in the state, will help with the interpretation of technology, and the overall history of one railroad that did: Conrail. Kallas says he is "hopeful" that one day the museum can even acquire an EMD-built Amtrak AEM-7 electric locomotive for its collection to further that mission of technology preservation.
Three Virginian-painted E33s, known as EL-C units on the road, approach Princeton, W.Va., in September 1960, a year after the Norfolk & Western merger. The units, sporting new N&W numbers here, were delivered as Nos. 130-141.
Harold Cavanaugh
No. 4601 began life in October 1956 as Virginian Railway “EL-C” No. 131. It was conveyed to the Norfolk & Western with its acquisition of the Virginian in 1959. Deemed surplus, the locomotive and 11 mates were sold to the bankrupt New Haven Railroad in 1963, carrying No. 300 and an “EF-4” model designation on the New England road’s roster. The motors then went to Penn Central in the 4600-series with the final E33 model designation, a classification they kept upon the creation of Conrail in 1976.

In 1979, Conrail pulled the plug on electric freight operations and the units sat in storage for a number of years before going to GE for trade-in credit on new diesels in 1982. The Railroad Museum of New England acquired No. 4601 from GE in 1987, and it was delivered to the Connecticut museum property in 1988.

One other E33 is preserved: Virginian-painted No. 135 at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.

For more stories like this, check out our special "Locomotives" page, powered by Locomotive magazine!
A pair of New Haven E33s, called EF-4s by the road, rolls through Cedar Hill Yard in New Haven, Conn., in fall 1964. A high-voltage jumper cable connections the units.
Harold Cavanaugh

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