With the torches fired up, railfans hope to save F45 in the eleventh hour

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MRL 390
No. 390 leads a train in 2005.
Tom Danneman

LIVINGSTON, Mont. – Just 24 hours after two of the last EMD F45s were sold for scrap, a group of railfans is organizing a last minute effort to save one.

Late Wednesday, Dynamic Rail Preservation launched a fundraising campaign to save Montana Rail Link No. 390, the second-to-last F45 built. The grassroots effort aims to raise $75,000 in just five days to buy, move and restore the F45 that was built as Burlington Northern No. 6644.

Earlier this week, MRL sold Nos. 390 and 392 to Progress Rail, which plans on scrapping the locomotives at MRL's shops in Livingston. The two locomotives have been stored since they last ran in 2006. MRL has also sold 10 SD45-2s that are in the process of being scrapped at this time.

“Many steam locomotives were placed in museums and parks, yet people scratched their heads wondering why no one saved a streamlined (New York Central) Hudson,” the group writes on its webpage. “Quite a few E and F diesel units have been saved and due to the actions of those who spared them from the scrappers torch folks are able to appreciate them... What about the next generation following the F-unit era?”

Dynamic Rail has previously saved other second-generation diesels, including Amtrak F40PH No. 231 and SDP40F No. 644, both currently stored in Ogden, Utah.

Of the 86 F45s built, only six remain. The loss of the two MRL units will shrink that to just four.

Besides the two slated for scrap on MRL, two former Wisconsin Central F45s are at Larry's Truck Electric in Ohio; New York, Susquehanna & Western No. 3636 is stripped and stored; and a former Santa Fe F45 has been rebuilt into a luxury lodge at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, Mont. It is currently painted Great Northern blue, gray and white.

On its website and Indiegogo fundraising page, Dynamic Rail says it has until May 26 to inform Progress Rail that it would like to purchase the engine. If it is successful it is unclear where the group would initially store the locomotive, but the group hopes to repaint it into its BN Cascade Green and white.

If the group cannot raise $75,000 by Monday, the donations that it has receives will go towards repairing and restoring SDP40F No. 644. As of late Wednesday, the group has raised just over $1,500.

“A group of people came together to acquire a former Santa Fe F45 for display in Great Northern colors in Essex, Mont. Had a GN F45 been saved, they would have been able to display an authentic GN unit on GN territory,” the group writes. “The same thing may happen to future Burlington Northern enthusiasts hoping to present BN heritage in the form of black and green paint with white stripes, but without an authentic BN unit to use.”

The effort to save an EMD built in 1971 comes as more and more groups look to preserve second-generation diesels. In California, Union Pacific SD40-2 No. 3105 has been preserved at the RailGiants Museum in exchange for UP Big Boy No. 4014, which is now under restoration in Wyoming. At the Utah State Railroad Musuem in Ogden, Rio Grande SD40T-2 No. 5371, the last tunnel motor to operate in Rio Grande gold and black, is now sheltered and on display. And in Canada, the Toronto Railway Historical Association recently fired up its former VIA LRC No. 6917, built in 1981, for the first time in 12 years.

Board member Jason Shron says in the past groups who have wanted to preserve “modern” locomotives have often come up short because, in part, there is less interest in such projects, but now the tide is turning. “Too many locomotives built after the 1950s have been allowed to be scrapped because many of our museums are underfunded, but also in some cases there just isn't the same interest in newer locomotives, but that's changing,” Shron says. “Railway history didn't end in the 1950s, it continues and it's important that we keep saving that history, including second-generation diesels.”

For more information about the effort to save No. 390, visit www.dynarail.org.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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