Trains.com

GN F7's

5178 views
40 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    February 2009
  • From: South Central Virginia
  • 204 posts
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?

  • Member since
    July 2001
  • From: Shelbyville, Kentucky
  • 1,943 posts
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. 

COTTON BELT: Runs like a Blue Streak!
  • Member since
    February 2009
  • From: South Central Virginia
  • 204 posts
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.

  • Member since
    April 2016
  • 1,372 posts
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.  

  • Member since
    December 2017
  • From: I've been everywhere, man
  • 4,118 posts
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.  

https://www.flickr.com/photos/albertarailwaymuseum/2127718400/

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

  • Member since
    January 2002
  • 4,509 posts
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...

Peter

  • Member since
    November 2008
  • 1,809 posts
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 when the Great Northern disappeared into Burlington Northern, including probably the surviving 5 F9B units (The 6th was retired by GN and didn't make it to the BN roster as a powered locomotive, having been rebuilt as a heater car before the merger).

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.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,192 posts
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.
Stix
  • Member since
    November 2008
  • 1,809 posts
Posted by Leo_Ames on Thursday, September 29, 2022 4:38 PM

While many post FT examples enjoyed more than 15 years of life, quite a few were retired at that mark or even earlier.

The Burlington's large fleet of F3's and their small F7 fleet were virtually extinct by merger day for example (only one F7 was still around). And only the F9 fleet was more or less intact from the various components of BN on the system's first day (and largely stayed that way until 1980).

The C&NW is the standout example of early retirement of those models with mass retirements of newer F units starting in 1957 when over 30 F3's were retired and traded-in to EMD on new Geeps, with newer F7's starting to go the following year in trade. Most FT's were still active when they were busy trading in F7's.

BN indeed entered the 80's with a large fleet of active F units. Approximately 110 were active at the start of the 1980's from the 284 units rostered on day 1 (out of 730 F units in total originally owned by predecessor roads). That era was ending though when 1982 dawned thanks to the recession accelerating retirement plans.

The last gasp for BN F units in revenue service were 24 mostly ex NP F9's that remained still active in late 1981 in the Twin Cities region after those in the Pacific Northwest had been parked the year previous.

By the spring of 1982 the last three were drained and stored. Most were quickly sent in trade to GE on cabless Dash 7's, with only 10 ex NP F9's (5 A's and 5 B's) that were saved as power units for rotaries remaining come 1983. A few remain today at BNSF, paired with rotaries or stored. 

  • Member since
    April 2007
  • From: Bridgman, MI
  • 228 posts
Posted by bogie_engineer on Friday, September 30, 2022 11:44 AM

Leo_Ames

Most were quickly sent in trade to GE on cabless Dash 7's, with only 10 ex NP F9's (5 A's and 5 B's) that were saved as power units for rotaries remaining come 1983. A few remain today at BNSF, paired with rotaries or stored. 

 

What components would GE use from these trade-ins. Trucks are all can think of that might have value to GE.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 19,679 posts
Posted by Overmod on Friday, September 30, 2022 12:22 PM

bogie_engineer
Trucks are all can think of that might have value to GE.

But weren't all the trucks on the booster dash-7s FB2s?  (I wonder if those A-B-B-B-A sets are still running?).  I wouldn't think GE would want to 're-use' EMD motors, either...

  • Member since
    November 2008
  • 1,809 posts
Posted by Leo_Ames on Friday, September 30, 2022 1:06 PM

I'm sure nothing of significance was reused. The only obvious component for reuse would've been the Blomberg truck frames, but that wasn't done.

While GE happily constructed new locomotives riding on Blomberg B truck frames for roads like the Seaboard Coast Line, no 4 axle U-Boat or Dash 7 for BN or BN's predecessors ever sat atop repurposed EMD trucks. Some of BN's U-Boats reused trucks off traded-in Alco's and the Frisco B30-7's rode on trucks from traded-in high-nose U25B's #800-807, but never an EMD.

All that GE got out of their trade-in allowance to Burlington Northern for those retired F units in the early 1980's was their scrap value. But accepting them in trade no doubt played a role in helping secure that order for Erie instead of it going to La Grange for new GP50's (All of BN's GP50's utilized recycled Blomberg trucks from trade-ins).

  • Member since
    February 2009
  • From: South Central Virginia
  • 204 posts
Posted by VGN Jess on Friday, September 30, 2022 3:55 PM

Thank you all for your responses. I had no idea that freight F7's lasted so long past 1970.

  • Member since
    November 2021
  • 125 posts
Posted by JayBee on Friday, September 30, 2022 8:13 PM

BN received 4 F3B, 3 F3A, 18 F7A, 17 F7B painted in Big Sky Blue.  

  • Member since
    November 2008
  • 1,809 posts
Posted by Leo_Ames on Saturday, October 1, 2022 6:16 AM

So 7 out of 18 F3's and 35 out of 89 F7's were in Great Northern's Big Sky Blue on Burlington Northern's first day. For comparison with a newer model, GN had cycled 1/3rd of the 5 year old U25B's through the paint shop for Big Sky Blue by the end. 

Not as high of a percentage of F units in blue/white as I expected judging by pictures of the early months of Burlington Northern, but perhaps that's because many of these were early retirements.

Quite a few were retired during 1970-1972, some probably never operating under BN. And if they typically would repaint a unit after overhaul (I'm not sure if GN practiced that, but that's what many roads do to this day), it makes sense that many of those out running in the early days of BN were those that had been repainted in Big Sky Blue.

Only 2 of the GN's F3's stuck around until the end of the F unit era with the rest retired by the end of 1974. And only 25 of the F7's were retained past those early years.

Were any of the 5 F9B's that made it to BN painted in Big Sky Blue?

  • Member since
    November 2021
  • 125 posts
Posted by JayBee on Sunday, October 2, 2022 12:40 AM

Minor correction to my previous post only 16 F7B units, but one F9B unit also. I mistook 474C for a F7B unit when in fact it was one of five F9B units purchased to turn an A-B-A set into an A-B-B-A set. 

Also three Passenger F3 units were painted into Big Sky Blue but did not make it to the BN merger, 1 F3A, and 2 F3B units. In total 183 locomotives were repainted into Big Sky Blue, with the locomotives delivered new in Big Sky Blue, there were 239 locomotives that wore the paint scheme. A significant number considering the scheme first appeared in April 1967, and the merger took place on March 1st, 1970.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,192 posts
Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, October 4, 2022 2:14 PM

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.

 
Keep in mind GN didn't start using the Big Sky Blue paintscheme until mid-late 1967. Unlikely they would have repainted an engine that they were about to scrap!
Wink
Stix
  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 19,679 posts
Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 5:55 AM

VGN Jess
... as I presumed that by 1970 no RR was running 20 year old F7 powered freights...

One of my happiest memories was chasing an A-B-B-A set of Erie-Lackawanna Fs out of Port Jervis on regular freight -- and a fine, fast wheel they put on a good long consist -- in what I recall was 1974.  That was the last time I saw full F-unit consist on freight, but it wasn't uncommon to see them MUed in consists in the '70s -- I saw one in 1977 in Ohio, with the engine crew gesticulating to draw attention to what they had in the back -- and KCS had cabs with the windows plated over to make them boosters that were in general freight consists as least as late as the mid-Eighties and perhaps into the '90s.

 

  • Member since
    December 2017
  • From: I've been everywhere, man
  • 4,118 posts
Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 10:40 AM

Overmod

...KCS had cabs with the windows plated over to make them boosters that were in general freight consists as least as late as the mid-Eighties and perhaps into the '90s.

CN had those too:

http://tracksidetreasure.blogspot.com/2017/02/cns-blind-mice-f-units.html

A lot of crews in western Alberta and B.C. preferred having an F-unit leading over a spartan cab Geep or SD40.  Better visibility and the round nose was better at pushing debris off the track.    

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,192 posts
Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 3:29 PM

Soo Line was a relatively late user of F units; a nice touch was none of the A-units had m.u. connections in the nose, so always had to run on the end of a consist...so in the seventies you might see an F7A-GP9-RS27-F7A lashup, with the Fs facing away from each other.

Then again, the next train might have a GP30-F7B-GP9 lashup, since the B-units could run anywhere in the consist.

Stix
  • Member since
    November 2008
  • 1,809 posts
Posted by Leo_Ames on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 6:16 PM

In 1970 I don't think any major F unit user had yet to completely eliminate the type.

The Union Pacific and Southern Pacific when both retired their last F units in 1972 are the first that leap to mind for a major F unit customer retiring their entire fleet (excluding the B units that SP retained as power units for rotary plows). And Lehigh Valley's last F units from their small fleet also went that year for a notable smaller road. 

The Burlington sure came close though to doing it even earlier, with just one F unit remaining from their sizeable fleet when Burlington Northern was born in 1970. Had BN been delayed a bit, they'd of surely been the first notable F unit operator to eliminate them entirely later that year.

NDG
  • Member since
    December 2013
  • 1,510 posts
Posted by NDG on Saturday, October 8, 2022 3:53 AM
FWIW.
 
Regarding Paint Jobs.
 
A Half Century Ago.
 
We roamed all over the West chasing CN 9102/1, which lasted into the
Seventies painted this way.
 
 
The LAST CN F Unit in the old colour scheme.
 

Thank You.

 

  • Member since
    July 2016
  • 2,087 posts
Posted by Backshop on Saturday, October 8, 2022 8:38 AM

PC also ran quite a few F-units in northern Ohio and SE Michigan during the mid 70s.

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 6,022 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, October 8, 2022 10:00 PM

The latest Trains Blog talks about some SEPTA ex-Reading FP7's that ran until 1981.  And the MetroNorth FL9's ran until 2009, for over 50 years in service.

  • Member since
    May 2004
  • 7,431 posts
Posted by 7j43k on Wednesday, October 19, 2022 5:40 PM

BN 853, former GN 314A, was repainted from BSB to BN green on November 5, 1976.

BN retired their last F's in 1982, most of them being former NP F9's.

BN operated FT's in the form of NP 5409D and 5404C for a few months.

 

 

Ed

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 13,026 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, October 20, 2022 10:04 AM

7j43k

BN operated FT's in the form of NP 5409D and 5404C for a few months.

Ed

 
I don't think that they lasted that long, a few weeks at most. At any rate, they were never renumbered BN 798 and 799.
The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    May 2004
  • 7,431 posts
Posted by 7j43k on Thursday, October 20, 2022 11:13 AM

CSSHEGEWISCH

 

 
7j43k

BN operated FT's in the form of NP 5409D and 5404C for a few months.

Ed

 

 

 
I don't think that they lasted that long, a few weeks at most. At any rate, they were never renumbered BN 798 and 799.
 

 

They were retired 06/10/70.  Perhaps "operated" is over optimistic.  Or not.

 

Traded in for SD45's.  Probably not on a one-for-one basis.  Wonder what EMD did with them.

 

The A was built 1/45, the B was built 8/44.

 

Anyone know when the last FT pulled a train?  Was it the BN ones?  There's a shot of the BN FT's doing that in March of 1970.

 

(Additional comment):

I visited the NP on-line group and found the last working run for these units was VERY likely on April 7, 1970.

And they do appear to be the last working FT's anywhere.

 

Ed

  • Member since
    November 2008
  • 1,809 posts
Posted by Leo_Ames on Thursday, October 20, 2022 4:31 PM

At least one FT (possibly two), also ex NP, operated in Mexico afterwards.

The Sonora Baja California bought an A and a B unit from NP in the 1964. While I'm unsure exactly when their initial operating career down in Mexico was completed, they appear to have both been out of service by 1972 and were eventually moved in the mid 1970's to the deadline at Benjamin Hill when repairs didn't happen (traction motor issues for the A unit; unsure about the B).

The A unit however was famously resurrected in the early 1990's, albeit with the innards from a donor GP18 and with some parts contributed by the B unit. The B unit's planned restoration that was to follow (using another GP18 as parts donor) seemed to become a casualty of the turmoil going on with Mexico's privatization of their railroads and she was quietly scrapped a decade or so ago, in the same deadline she had sat in since the 70's. 

The A unit is preserved (And operational) at the National Railroad Museum in Puebla.

  • Member since
    December 2017
  • From: I've been everywhere, man
  • 4,118 posts
Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, October 20, 2022 4:39 PM

Leo_Ames

The A unit is preserved (And operational) at the National Railroad Museum in Puebla.

Along with the only currently operational ALCO PA:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbU5W1XSX04

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

  • Member since
    November 2008
  • 1,809 posts
Posted by Leo_Ames on Thursday, October 20, 2022 4:48 PM

The only other possible candidates north of Mexico that may have outlasted BN's pair would be on shortlines.

At least two southeastern shortlines utilized ex Southern Railway FT's in the late 1960's, but I don't recall names or know if their used power lasted into the early 1970's. They've briefly seen mentions in the issues of Trains and Classic Trains through the years, but I don't recollect the names of the shortlines to do some checking.

One story I recall had an irate engineer or fireman that didn't like being chased by crazy railfans with cameras, that kept trying to spoil their pictures (not understanding of their interest in his power). I believe an apple was thrown in one of the incidents. 

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy