NP SD45 appears on a photo freight in Minnesota

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Northern Pacific EMD SD45 No. 3617 appeared for the first time in charter service last weekend with its new NP paint job and logos.
Steve Glischinski
Northern Pacific SD45 No. 3617 appears to haul a string of ore cars during a railfan event near Duluth, Minn., last weekend.
Steve Glischinski
DULUTH, Minn. – The Lake Superior Railroad Museum debuted its newly restored Northern Pacific SD45 No. 3617 during the museum’s Railfan Weekend Sept. 11-12. The sparkling unit in fresh NP paint was used on a special charter train between Duluth and Knife River, Minn. on the museum’s North Shore Scenic Railroad. Since the locomotive is not presently operational, a train of empty ore cars provided by Canadian National was pushed by the museum’s Soo Line FP7 2500A between photo stops.

"We feel quite fortunate to have a Northern Pacific diesel in the collection,” museum curator Tim Schandel tells Trains News Wire. "There are relatively few NP diesels preserved, so we feel lucky that we were able to save an SD45 from the Northern Pacific’s final years."

Schandel says he plans to move the SD45 inside the museum and display it alongside Northern Pacific’s first locomotive, the 0-4-0T Minnetonka built in 1870, to illustrate motive power from NP’s first and last years. The museum also owns the last Northern Pacific 2-6-2, No. 2435, which is being cosmetically restored.

No. 3617 was built by EMD in April 1967 and is among the last surviving Northern Pacific SD45s among a fleet of 30 that NP received between 1966 and 1968. The locomotive became Burlington Northern No,. 6417 in 1970, and kept the number when it went to the Wisconsin Central in 1987. Wisconsin Central later renumbered it No. 6495 and finally No. 7495 when the railroad rebuilt the locomotive just prior to the merger with Canadian National.

Schandel says the museum tracked the SD45 from the earliest years of the Wisconsin Central, hoping they could save the diesel. That finally occurred in June 2007 when Canadian National donated the locomotive to the museum.

The unit was repainted in NP colors for the museum at no charge by the Northern Plains Railroad at their shop in Fordville, N.D. Northern Plains moved it to Thief River Falls, Minn., where it was interchanged to Canadian Pacific. CP provided an expedited move from Thief River Falls to Duluth so the locomotive would arrive in time for the Railfan Weekend. On the evening of Sept. 10, the locomotive was brought to the museum grounds. Museum employees and volunteers quickly added finishing touches such as monads to the cab sides, the NP monad logo on the nose, and NP-style number boards.

Still to come are more details such as class lights in the nose. The museum hopes to someday return No. 3617 to operating condition. That would require connecting the unit’s AR10-alternator, which was missing, but a replacement was donated by CN. The museum also has to locate computer cards to operate the unit's electrical system.
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