Historic GE 44-tonner preserved

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A GE-built 44-ton switching locomotive may be restored to original Great Northern colors in Maryland.
David Tunison
WALKERSVILLE, Md. — One of the earliest examples of General Electric’s popular 44-tonner switcher produced has been preserved by a private individual and moved to the Walkersville Southern Railroad. Jamie Haislip, an electrical contractor by trade who also serves as the railroad’s roadmaster, was asked to save the unit from scrap since it was close to being dismantled. The locomotive was built in September 1940 for the Great Northern Railway as No. 5201 and was one of the first four examples of the GE 44-tonner produced. GN renumbered the unit 51 in 1943 and it was painted in the famous GN Omaha orange and Pullman green color scheme.

In 1948 it was sold to Iron & Steel Products Co., then in 1954 it was acquired via dealer Bateson-Stolte and sold to the A. J. King Lumber Co. for their subsidiary Smoky Mountain Railroad, becoming No. 440. The short line operated from Knoxville to Sevierville, Tenn. from 1909 to 1961. When Smoky Mountain shut down the White Transfer Co. in Fletcher, N.C., eventually acquired No. 440. It remained there until it moved to Walkersville earlier this month. The locomotive was rebuilt in 1970 and very rarely used since then. It was operable until copper thieves damaged it in 2012.

D C Tunison Trucking moved it from North Carolina to Maryland on Dec. 5 and 6. Haislip tells Trains News Wire that the agreement with the White family when he purchased the unit was that it would be restored as long as it’s not “too far gone.”

“We will make an effort to restore it since this locomotive has some history to it,” Haislip says.

He said the railroad is going to put the locomotive through a series of tests to see if it can be restored to operating condition. The engines are being winterized and sealed off since cold weather has set in.

If restored, Haislip said the overall consensus now is to restore the 44-tonner to its GN orange-and-green colors, since the green would match nicely with the green cars on the railroad’s dinner train. However, “Smoky Mountain 440 is a very close second,” he said.

The unit joins two other 44-tonners on Walkersville Southern owned by Haislip, ex-Pennsylvania Railroad No. 9331, which is operable, and No. 9339 which only needs new window gaskets before it can be operated.

Walkersville Southern operates a portion of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Frederick Secondary, which was constructed between Walkersville and Frederick, Md., between 1869 and 1872 as part of a line Columbia, Pa., to Frederick. The line became Penn Central property in 1968. In 1972, flooding from Hurricane Agnes washed out the bridge over the Monocacy River, severing the line two miles south of Walkersville. The State of Maryland purchased the portion of the line within its borders, with only the section north of Walkersville remaining in service. For 20 years, the six-mile line between Walkersville and Frederick was out-of-service.

In 1993, the Maryland Department of Transportation chose Walkersville Southern as the operator of the Walkersville-Frederick line, and in 1995 it began reconstruction of the Monocacy River Bridge. The bridge project was completed in March 1996. The railroad operates excursion train service on weekends between May and October.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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