NS to dispose of executive F units, other roster oddities

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The F units lead an office car train at Harrisburg, Pa., prior to their renumbering.
Dan Cupper
ALTOONA, Pa. – Norfolk Southern has put its A-B-B-A set of executive F unit locomotives up for auction, according to an assets-disposition bidding sheet distributed on Nov. 6 and obtained by Trains News Wire.

Regularly assigned to NS’s office car train, the quartet was acquired in 2006 and rebuilt to GP38-2 standards by the railroad’s Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, Pa. Since then, they have been based in Altoona, along with the company’s 20-plus office cars. The locomotives wear a version of the former Southern Railway black-and-gray F unit paint scheme, with an image of the railroad's thoroughbred horse on the nose of each A unit. The cars wear the Norfolk & Western’s classic Tuscan red paint with gold lettering.

Southern, which merged with N&W in 1982 to create NS, was an early convert to diesel power, acquiring the demonstrator set of FT units that ran an 8,700-mile tour around the United States in 1939-1940. That performance widely proved the practicality of diesel-electric power in heavy freight service. Up to that time, it had been confined to lighter-duty passenger and switching service.

Built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors Corp. in 1952, the two A units, Nos. 270 and 271, began life as Baltimore & Ohio F7 locomotives. Rated at 1,800 hp, the A units were previously used by MARC, the Maryland Area Rail Commuter service. The B units, numbered 275 and 276 and rated at 2,000 hp, were built by EMD in 1950 for the Chicago Great Western.

The four were acquired during the administration of CEO Wick Moorman, along with three other Fs of Chicago & North Western, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific heritage, which were stored for use as parts sources.

When NS acquired the units, it numbered the A units 4270-4271, as the highest-numbered Southern F7 unit was the 4269. The B units were numbered 4275-4276. Within the past year, the digit 4 was dropped from all four when NS’s program to rebuild standard-cab General Electric C40-9 DC-powered units into 4000-series wide-nose AC44C6M AC-powered units grew to reach into the 4200 number series.

The A units featured a camera mounted in the windshield, to provide a closed-circuit signal to TV monitors back in the train. They are also equipped with positive train control.

The F-units led office car trains across the 19,500-mile, 22-state system, reaching New York, Chicago, and NS’s headquarters city of Atlanta. They regularly made trips to the Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., each April, and to the Kentucky Derby in Louisville each May. During each event, the parked train served as a hospitality suite.

They also pulled “Blue Ribbon Special” employee appreciation trains in 2011. In addition, they proudly represented NS at events and celebrations such as “Norfolk Southern Days” at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and the four-day “Streamliners at Spencer” gathering in 2014 at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, N.C.

The disposition is not a complete surprise. In September, an NS office car train operated from Altoona to Atlanta behind NS 8099, the company’s Southern Railway green-and-gold heritage unit. It was the first time since the F-units made their 2007 debut that such a train ran without them. The office-car fleet includes a power car to provide head-end-power, so it can be led by a non-equipped freight unit.

Other locomotives up for sale at the same time include former Reading Co. EMD SW1001s Nos. 2104-2105; six former-Southern Railway EMD MP15s Nos. 2362, 2386, 2393, 2398, and 2403; modified EMD MP15E No. 2423; RailPower RP20BD gensets Nos. 100-101; RP20CD genset No. 3830; NS BP4 No. 999, a battery-powered experimental unit built by Juniata in 2014; and partially disassembled SD40-2 No. 3463 (former BN/CEFX No. 7083).

Auction bids close on Nov. 20. The railroad will deliver the F units to the successful bidder anywhere on its lines.

Norfolk Southern has not responded to a request for comment.
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