Early Soo Line diesel preserved by Lake Superior Railroad Museum

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No. 320 arrives at the Duluth, Minn., museum.
David C. Schauer
DULUTH, Minn. — The Lake Superior Railroad Museum has preserved one of the first diesels built for the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railroad, also known as the Soo Line. Independent Locomotive Service of Bethel, Minn., donated Soo SW1 No. 320 to the museum this month.

No. 320 was built by EMD in September 1939, the same month the Soo also received NW2 No. 300, followed a month later by NW2 No. 301. They were the first diesels on the “old” Soo Line, although subsidiary Wisconsin Central purchased its first three diesels in December 1938. The three were assigned to switching duties in the Minneapolis area.

No. 320 remained in service until November 1976, when it was stripped at Soo’s Shoreham Shops in Minneapolis. In 1977, it was sold to General Electric, which rebuilt and resold it to Great Lakes Coal & Dock for use at their barge loading facility along the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Minn. It remained there for the next 30 years.

Independent Locomotive bought the unit in 2009 and repainted it into its as-delivered Soo Line colors of black with white lettering in time for the annual convention of the Soo Line Historical & Technical Society in Glenwood, Minn. Independent Locomotive Service owner and founder Frank Nesbit is a former Soo Line general roundhouse foreman at Shoreham, so he knew No. 320’s historic significance. Nesbit’s son, Mike, serves on the board of the museum, and the father-son duo arranged to donate the historic locomotive to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum.

To get No. 320 to Duluth, BNSF Railway agreed to move the engine at no charge from the connection with the Minnesota Northern Railway at Crookston, Minn., to the museum. Independent Locomotive controls short line holding company KBN, Inc., which owns Minnesota Northern.

The engine was picked up by BNSF March 10, arrived in Superior, Wis., on March 11, and then traveled on a transfer run to Duluth where it was moved into the museum later that day.

Museum Executive Director Ken Buehler says the unit is “absolutely pristine,” with the exterior, cab interior, and engine compartment all repainted.

No. 320 joins two other operational Soo Line diesels in the museum collection: Wisconsin Central FP7 No. 2500A, built in 1949, and “new” Soo GP30 No. 700, built in March 1963 as part of the second order of new diesels for the post-merger Soo, following two Alco RS27s received in 1962.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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