Friends of the 261 debuts newly acquired E9

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Friends of the 261’s E9A No. 101, ex-Milwaukee Road No. 32A, leads an eastbound excursion train past the former Milwaukee Road depot in Hopkins, Minn., on June 23, 2019.
Steve Glischinski
MINNEAPOLIS – The Friends of the 261 debuted its newly acquired former Milwaukee Road E9A over the weekend on trips over the Twin Cities & Western and Minnesota Prairie Line. The trips, sponsored by the Friends and the Milwaukee Road Historical Association, which was holding its annual convention in St. Paul, featured Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261 pulling the trips west out of Minneapolis, with E9A No. 101 pulling the return trips east. On June 22, the train operated between Minneapolis and Brownton on the Twin Cities & Western. On June 23 the train operated between Minneapolis and Norwood on TC&W, then from Norwood to Winthrop on TC&W subsidiary Minnesota Prairie Line.

The E unit was acquired earlier this year from the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, and was originally Milwaukee Road No. 32A. It was delivered to the Friends and put on display at Union Depot Trains Days at Union Depot in St. Paul on June 1-2. The unit then still wore its full Wisconsin & Southern lettering. For the MRHA trips, the Wisconsin & Southern lettering was removed, and a Milwaukee Road Hiawatha “Running Indian” logo was placed on the nose.

The E9 was delivered to the Milwaukee Road by EMD in April 1956 as No. 202A. It was part of six sets of A-B-A E9s purchased for use on Union Pacific’s “Cities” streamliners the Milwaukee began operating between Chicago and Omaha in 1955. All were delivered in UP yellow colors. The numbering sequence for the third set was 202A, 202B, and 202C. In the 1959 Milwaukee Road fleet renumbering the set became 32A, 32B, and 32C. Eventually the units were used on other Milwaukee Road passenger services, such as the Olympian Hiawatha between Chicago and Seattle/Tacoma and the Morning Hiawatha and Afternoon Hiawatha between Chicago and the Twin Cities. In 1971 the unit began service for Amtrak, officially leaving the Milwaukee Road roster in June 1974. Amtrak had the unit rebuilt at the Milwaukee Shops and was renumbered 434. It remained on Amtrak’s roster until 1982.

It was then sold to the Alaska Railroad where it was renumbered 2402. It ran in the 49th state until 1986 when it was purchased by Wisconsin’s Northern Rail Car Leasing and numbered 10C. Northern Railcar founded Scenic Rail Dining, which between 1987 and 1990 operated a high-end dinner train out of North Milwaukee on a portion of the former Milwaukee Road to Horicon, Wis., owned by the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad. In 1988, Northern Rail Car, owned by William Gardner, purchased Wisconsin & Southern. When the dinner train was discontinued in 1990, Wisconsin & Southern retained the unit for its business train and eventually numbered it 101.

After Watco acquired Wisconsin & Southern in 2011, No. 101 was retained but saw minimal use. The Friends, aware of its Milwaukee Road heritage, worked to acquire the locomotive. Longtime Friends of the 261 members Robert Schroeder and Mary Walters provided key support for the acquisition.

The weekend trips will likely be the last with No. 101 wearing Wisconsin & Southern colors. The Friends plan to repaint the E unit and renumber it back to 32A this summer. However, it will wear a variation of Milwaukee Road’s orange and maroon passenger train colors, since the Friends car fleet is all painted in that scheme, which was used by the Milwaukee until it began operating the UP streamliners and adopted UP yellow for its passenger trains.
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