07 November 2010

Got a spare locomotive lying around?

A few weeks back, I posted pictures of a tricked-out, civilian version of the Soviet BRDM light armored car.

I think it's been topped by a project that any of us could do. All you need is a few dollars, a little ingenuity, some duct tape...and a surplus locomotive.

The above is the Izaak Walton Inn, near Essex, Montana. The inn was built in the late 1930s by the Great Northern Railroad as a stop and destination hotel to Glacier National Park in northern Montana. It's still a full service resort, and a stop for Amtrak's Chicago-Seattle Empire Builder-the track, after all, is only a few hundred feet from the front door. A beautiful locale in winter and summer, it would appear. I've never been there. I must remedy that sometime.

The big blue and white engine started life as an F45 on the Santa Fe railroad, 'round about 1970. The F45s served on freight service, and its sister FP45s were used on the last of the pre-Amtrak passenger trains. The '45s were mostly out of service by the end of the decade on the big roads. Cowlbody units are a maintenance nightmare, with no room in the engine compartment to do any heavy work, and not good ergonomics for the locomotive crews. My dad was a machinist on the Milwaukee Road, and he used to cuss every time an F or FP came into the roundhouse. Try removing a broken crankshaft-as those engines were prone to do-with limited access. It can be done-anyone who ever served as a machinist's mate or chief engineer on a diesel-powered submarine has done some heavy work in a small space-but it isn't much fun.

Seems one of these were found on a short line railway in Utah serving out its last days. So what does one do with a well-used, fuel-guzzling, third-generation, diesel locomotive?

Simple, really. Make a cabin out of it.

I read the story of GN 441 in the latest issue of Trains magazine, and that article went into a lot greater detail of how the engine started out life in the Southwest on the ATSF, and ended up in a luxury resort in Montana. If you want to read more, look it up.

The locomotive was stripped out and repainted in the snazzy black, white, and Big Sky Blue of the Great Northern before the 1970 merger that created the Burlington Northern. I remember seeing some of these go through town, pulling the old Empire Builder up the Burlington along the Mississippi. It was an eye-catching scheme, quite classy.

So the big, troublesome 16-cylinder diesel was removed, the interior stripped to the structure and cowl panels, and a new interior was designed:

And what does it look like inside, you ask?

Not too shabby, I think. I could spend a weekend here easily enough. And at $230/night and a two night minimum, it should be top-flight.

The control cab was cleaned up and left in, along with the old electrical panel. I'd bet the kids have a great time playing with the throttle and pushing all the buttons and switches. A nice touch-

-though I've never, ever, seen a locomotive cab that clean! Everything on a railroad has a quarter-inch of grease on it and smells of diesel fuel.

Finally, a view out the picture window where the old engine access doors were:

Cool, eh? And for a half-mill or so, you could do the very same thing! I have to say that I've seen cabooses (that's 'guard vans' for you Oz folks) turned into homes and cabins, and a school bus can be converted into a portable tailgate party bus or rolling hunting/fishing camp,  but this is a first-a locomotive into a luxury cabin!

The pictures are courtesy of Railpictures.net and the Izaak Walton Inn website.

I now know where I'm going to spend a few days-once I win the lottery, that is.

Speaking of railroads-got a question for the Australians/NZers that visit here.

On a two-track line there, do the trains run in the same direction as your highway traffic, as shown below?

Just curious. Here the rail traffic flows like our highway traffic (the arrows would be flipped), except for the part of the Union Pacific that used to be the Chicago and North Western RR, where the trains run like the picture shows. I've heard this is because British interests helped fund the CNW in the 1800s, but that could be a load of crap. Though I did read it on the 'Net, so it must be true.

yankeedog out.


  1. As a rule they are on the left YDog, snazzy cabin.

  2. Thats a sweet ride/room. I take it you haven't won the lottery yet since you haven't stayed nor visited down under

    What would be cooler would be if the train could still travel but without the 16 cylinder engine thats not going to happen.

  3. Bangar-Kinda figured the trains ran that way there but wasn't sure.

    Barnesy-That big lotto win has been elusive of late.

    As for Australia, soon as a) the continent magically appears 10 miles off the California coast or b) we get some vehicle that'll get me in around three hours, I'm there. Too damn far to sit in a plane for my liking.

  4. OH my goodness, I want to stay there!

  5. Storm-It IS impressive, isn't it?

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