Minnesota short line revives Burlington Northern's Cascade green

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No. 422 rests at Kansas City, Mo., prior to shipment. The unit is expected to receive a larger logo upon delivery to the railroad in Minnesota.
Zack Pumphery
ST. CLOUD, Minn. – Burlington Northern’s Cascade green paint scheme was consigned to history with BN’s merger with Santa Fe in 1995, but the colors are making a comeback on Minnesota short line Northern Lines Railway. Two GP15-1s are being overhauled for service on the railroad and painted in a version of BN’s Cascade green colors. Northern Lines was formed in 2005 by Anacostia Rail Holdings Company to operate about 25 miles of mainly ex-Great Northern trackage in the St. Cloud area.

The railroad has relied on GP7 and GP9 rebuilds since start up, but that is about to change. Former Chicago & North Western GP15-1 No. 4413, now NLR No. 422, has been repainted in Cascade green by Mid-America Car in Kansas City, Mo., but has not yet been accepted by the railroad. No. 400, ex-St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) No. 115, is being overhauled at Metro East Industries in East St. Louis and will join No. 422 in Cascade green when completed. This will be the second time the unit will wear BN green. After BN merged Frisco into its system in 1980, the unit was repainted Cascade green and renumbered BN 1390. It became BNSF No. 1490, then was sold to Locomotive Leasing Partners (LLPX). It worked for several years at the Bay Coast Railroad as its number 400.

Northern Lines Railway President Justin Chalich said, “We needed newer, more reliable locomotives. The two GP15s will replace older locomotives, No. 400 and No. 1411. Both have worked hard since they were built in 1952 and 1950, respectively. Northern Lines Railway operates over former Great Northern trackage. We wanted to recognize that heritage by retaining Burlington Northern’s Cascade Green color scheme, he said.

The Cascade green scheme was developed in the 1960s by the New York industrial design firm of Lippincott & Margulies. It was meant to represent the forest country of the Northwest that would be served by the new Burlington Northern, as well as the timber industry, one of the railroad’s major customers. The first unit to wear green was Chicago, Burlington & Quincy GP40 No. 629 in August 1968, painted in an experimental scheme with a wide white stripe along the body and narrow V-stripes on the nose. In the final version of the scheme, the white flanking strip was eliminated (except on passenger units with the stripe narrowed) while four 45-degree white stripes replaced the V-stripes on the nose. Repainting of BN’s diesel fleet began after the merger in March 1970 and was completed in September 1977.

NLR’s primary commodities are aggregates, building products, chemicals, coal, food products, lumber, manufactured goods, paper, scrap, steel and stone. In 2012, Archer Daniels Midland constructed a shuttle loading grain elevator on NLR’s Cold Spring/Rockville line between Waite Park and Rockville, Minn.

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