Sumpter Valley prepares diesel for 2018 season

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Oregon's famed Sumpter Valley Railroad has added this GE 50-tonner to its roster.
Jonathan Fischer
SUMPTER, Ore. — Volunteers at the narrow-gauge Sumpter Valley Railroad, in Northeast Oregon’s Baker County, have nearly completed the overhaul of a vintage 50-ton diesel-electric locomotive. Built by General Electric for the Chiriqui Land Co. of Panama in 1952, No. 720 spent decades hauling passengers and freight in the tropics. When the Central American railroad closed in 2005, No. 720 was purchased by the Sumpter Valley Railroad and shipped to McEwen, Ore. Another 50-ton, number 805, was purchased privately and is also on site in Oregon. While somewhat serviceable upon arrival, No. 720 required a full coupler to coupler rebuild before it could be placed in regular operation. In December 2017, the locomotive informally joined the operating fleet by hauling the first round trip of the annual Christmas trains when the scheduled steam locomotive went down with minor air compressor troubles. Minor work is still underway, but the vintage diesel will be scheduled on several trains for the upcoming 2018 season. Though slightly newer and larger, No. 720 is similar to the famous “Little Giant” of the Southern Pacific narrow gauge in California.

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