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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Rainbow on the Rails

In 2012 and again last year, the North Carolina Transportation Museum held a colorful gathering of surviving first-generation diesels from all over the country at the historic Spencer Shops in the Tarheel State.  Here's an unnarrated but nicely photographed record of the beautiful streamlined paint schemes:  most are E-units and F-units built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors, which your Head Trucker thinks are tops; but some railfans prefer the Alco PA, seen here in Nickel Plate colors.  The prettiest loco may well be the Atlantic Coast Line's slant-nosed E3 in its eye-popping livery of purple, silver, and gold.

Also on view is the famous EMD FT 103 demonstrator from 1939, known as "the diesel that did it"; diesel locomotives had been used on passenger trains as early as 1934, but railroads were not convinced that diesels could be counted on to haul much-heavier freight trains until the FT was sent on tour around the country, successfully demonstrating its power.  The demands of the war effort delayed mass production of diesels until 1945, but soon thereafter thousands of them were to be seen speeding along the nation's railroads.  The efficiency and economy of diesels quickly resulted in steam's demise on major routes, with the last regular steam-hauled trains on major railroads being replaced with diesel by 1960.

And also on display is the magnificent streamlined steam locomotive Norfolk and Western J-class 611. The 611 has spent the last twenty years in a museum, but was taken out last year for restoration and is due to start its revived excursion career later this year.

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