Old Number 245 has returned to Duluth.
The 64-year-old diesel-electric locomotive regularly pulled passenger trains to and from the Depot for the Northern Pacific Railroad. It recently joined the Lake Superior Railroad Museum’s collection.
On Monday, No. 245 made its initial run for the museum, a short trip from the Depot to a news conference near Fitger's. At the controls was Dave Schultz, a CN engineer who took the day off to drive this locomotive, which he found in North Dakota. He was largely responsible for brokering the deal, museum executive director Ken Buehler said.
Schultz has a personal interest in No. 245. His grandfather Sam Lowe was the conductor onboard a train pulled by the locomotive in 1968.
“It’s absolutely incredible” to operate the locomotive, he said Monday from the engine’s cab. “Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would get this locomotive.’’
No. 245 was built by General Motors' Electro-Motive Division in February 1956, one of more than 3,500 GP9s (for General Purpose) locomotives built from 1954 to 1959. A four-axle locomotive weighing 120 tons, stretching 56 feet and generating 1,750 horsepower, the GP9s were among the engines that replaced steam locomotives. The new diesel-electric locomotives were cheaper to run and required less maintenance.
Northern Pacific bought 157 GP9s, but few pulled passenger trains. The 245 was one that did. It had a steam generator to supply heat to passenger coaches.
Schultz found Dakota Quality Grain Cooperative using the 245 as a switching engine at its Parshall, North Dakota, plant. The company was looking for a bigger engine while the railroad museum was looking for something more economical to use on its tourist trains. Schultz helped arrange the swap of a redundant locomotive in the museum’s collection for the 245.
"They got a newer, more powerful engine, and we got a more historic one,” Buehler said. “It’s in great shape — all we had to do was clean it and paint it.”
The Canadian Pacific Railroad volunteered to move No. 245 from Parshall to Duluth, where it arrived two weeks ago. The museum rolled it out Monday in honor of the anniversary of the completion of America’s first transcontinental railroad with the pounding of the golden spike at Promontory Point, Utah, on May 10, 1869.