Santa Fe 'Warbonnet' FP45 comes alive in California

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Santa Fe FP45 No. 108 running through its paces at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Southern California on Saturday, Oct. 6.
David R. Busse
An image of the restored interior of Santa Fe FP45 No. 108. The cab's green paint is correct "EMD green" for its restoration in an as delivered appearance.
David R. Busse
PERRIS, Calif. —Santa Fe FP45 No. 108, the railroad’s last new passenger locomotive, rolled out of the Orange Empire Railway Museum’s diesel shop in dramatic fashion Saturday, Oct. 6, under its own power and showing off its 1967-version of the railroad’s famous “Warbonnet” passenger locomotive paint scheme.

The roll-out capped a six-year restoration effort led by museum volunteer Jeff Williams, whose goal was to restore the 1967 EMD product as closely as possible to its as-delivered appearance, inside and out.

“This is more than just a paint job,” said Williams. "We thought this was going to take a year, and it took six.”

Museum volunteers installed a new headlight between the number boards along with an oscillating headlight, rebuilt the front pilot to original condition, completely rebuilt the cab and control stand to 1967 appearance and had a turbocharger rebuilt to breathe life into the 20-cylinder EMD 654E3 prime mover.

The only thing missing internally is the steam generator, which Santa Fe removed in the early 1970s. Williams did get drawings of the original air intake and exhaust vents for the steam generator system and a local metal fabricator created new ones. They were installed where the originals had been welded shut. Externally, the fuel tank retains the 1970s Santa Fe modification, eliminating the water tank.

Williams is quick to note that the locomotive interior is painted light green, which, in his research, is a commercial paint color called “EMD green.”

EMD built the locomotive in December 1967 — serial No. 33197 — and with its eight sister locomotives, was the standard bearer for the Santa Fe’s crack passenger trains until the advent of Amtrak in 1971. The locomotive spent the rest of its career in Santa Fe freight train service and was occasionally assigned to company passenger specials.

Rebuilt at San Bernardino, Calif., in 1982, it was back in the limelight in 1989 when Santa Fe President Michael Haverty ordered the remaining fleet of FP45s repainted into a new version of the “Warbonnet” as a marketing move. The railroad retired the locomotive in March 1998 by BNSF Railway and donated it to Orange Empire in working condition. While six FP45s have been preserved, No. 108 is the first of the preserved to wear its original colors.

The museum will use the restored locomotive on the museum’s public passenger trains.

More information is available online. 

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