GN F7's

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GN F7's
Posted by VGN Jess on Thursday, September 22, 2022 10:19 PM

Does anyone know (or speculate) in what year GN ran their last F7's in the "sky blue" livery?

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Posted by SSW9389 on Friday, September 23, 2022 2:34 AM

You mean the last year that BN ran sky blue F7s. The last day GN ran any trains was March 1, 1970. After that date it was Burlington Northern. 

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Posted by VGN Jess on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 8:30 PM

No, I actually meant GN, as I presumed that by 1970 no RR was running 20 year old F7 powered freights, but if you know that BN did, that answers my question.

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 9:23 PM

From what I've seen on some of my Facebook groups pages there were several class 1 railroads that used F units on freight trains as leaders into the 70s.  The Santa Fe Conrail Penn Central and BN.  Most of the Santa Fe units became the CF7 line.  The Penn Central was using them well because they were already there and they ran and at the time if it could move it was used.  The BN was dealing with the problem of getting the Powder River Basin up and running so any and all capital expansion was used there for the most part.  The CNW used their fleet extensively in commuter service into the late 70s.  

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Posted by SD70Dude on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 9:24 PM

They lasted a surprisingly long time on multiple railroads.

BN ran some F7s into the early 1980s, though they probably all wore Cascade Green by that time.  

Canadian National might have been the last Class I to operate F7s, they rebuilt a number of them during the 1970s and some ran until 1989.  They could even be found in passenger or mixed train service into the mid-80s, often paired with a steam generator car.  

VIA had part of an F7 on the roster until 2011 in the form of the cab on FP9RM 6300 (originally CN 6524), which spent its last years as the Vancouver shop switcher.  6300 was damaged in the infamous 1986 Hinton, Alberta crash, and to repair it VIA purchased a retired F7A from Kansas City Southern which had suffered a major engine room fire (KCS 4062), chopped both units behind the cab and grafted the two good sections together, making one working unit out of two wrecked ones.  

Certain other relics (or at least their parts) are still in use, like the load tester at CN's Edmonton (Walker yard) diesel shop, which is made of two F-unit dynamic brake grids sitting on a Flexcoil truck.

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Posted by M636C on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 12:23 AM

In 1977, BN had two A and two B units for their business train.

I recall seeing them in Chicago in 1977. What I thought at first was that it was one of the E units used then in commuter service, partly behind other vehicles but while the E units had orange and white nose stripes, this loco had green and white stripes. Whan I saw the whole set, they were arranged ABBA on a matching cascade green train. Later that night we were out on the Aurora line, and they ran through at speed, sounding much louder than the usual commuter train.

I recall having one of Strapac's early Burlington Northern Roster books, and a number of units were illustrated still in blue with "BN" lettering under the number, and although, of course, I can't find it now, I'm sure there were blue F units still in service, although some may have been F9s...


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Posted by Leo_Ames on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 2:56 AM

I imagine most of the Great Northern F units were in Big Sky Blue on merger day, including probably the surviving 5 F9B units (The 6th was retired by GN and didn't make it to the BN roster).

While unscientific, it's certainly far more common to see pictures of blue F units in the early Burlington Northern days than it was to see one in the older GN paint scheme. At least a handful managed to make it to the BN roster without the blue and white though. 

It didn't lost long. Excluding early retirements in the opening months, the surviving F units were quickly repainted in Cascade Green. While the active BN roster wasn't fully repainted until the end of 1976 (no RS3 saw paint until late that year for instance), it's difficult to find a picture of an active BN F unit in predecessor colors by 1973. 

Even most of those strickened in 73 and 74 went to the scrapyard in fresh BN colors, before F unit retirements stopped in 1975 and a rebuild program was initiated with the boom in coal traffic extending their life of the survivors.

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 9:11 AM

VGN Jess

No, I actually meant GN, as I presumed that by 1970 no RR was running 20 year old F7 powered freights, but if you know that BN did, that answers my question.

What might be confusing things is that the earliest F units, the FTs of 1941-45, generally  had all been retired (usually traded in on 2nd generation EMD diesels) by the mid-sixties, so only lasted about 20 years. However, all the later F units (including FPs) often worked much longer than that. As I recall on trips to Canada, F-units were fairly common in the 1970s, and saw Via Rail's "Canadian" passenger trains with FPs in 1983. The F9s Erie Mining Co. in northeast Minnesota bought in 1954 were still hauling taconite pellets to the ore dock when the taconite operation ceased in the early 2000s. 
GN used A-B-A sets of F7s as standard power on iron ore trains right up to (and I suspect beyond) the merger. According to my 1982 Kalmbach "Diesel Locomotive Rosters" book, at that time BN still rostered 2 F3s, 35 F7s, and 72 F9s. Unfortunately it doesn't break down which railroad originally owned the engines. I don't know how many were in everyday use, but I believe the former NP F9s were still being used on mainline trains in the early 1980s.

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