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Restored DM&IR SD9 129 at Keenan, MN on September 20, 1991 | by Twin Ports Rail History
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Restored DM&IR SD9 129 at Keenan, MN on September 20, 1991

One of the best things about being involved in research is often the unexpected opportunity to help someone else. Such was the case back in August 1990 when my phone rang. The person on the other end of the line was a gentleman by the name of Tim Johnson and he was in charge of locomotives for the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railway working out of the Proctor, MN. diesel house.


Tim's issue was that he had received a request from the "top of the mountain" to get one of the early passenger diesels repainted into the original scheme that it was delivered in from Electro-Motive back in the 1950s.


The first thing that happened was he went to the paint shop inside the roundhouse and asked his painter if he had the old plans to do the job. The answer was, "nope".


Then he called Missabe Engineering to see if they had the proper materials to get the paint job right. The answer again was, "nope".


Surely, if anyone would still have the old paint plans it would have to be Electro-Motive itself. So a call was made to LaGrange to see if they could provide the original artwork for the logos, full size templates for the lettering and stripes, and the paint and styling diagram to put it all together. The answer Tim got back was still a resounding, "nope".


Then my phone rang. Tim told me all about what he was going through to make the officials happy with this project and so far he hadn't been lucky at all. Tim's luck was about to change for the better.


Back then, part of my collection included a large holding of materials from E.M.D. Not just the typical styling plans but also the full size artwork templates for the logos, lettering, numbers, and even the full size 1:1 stripe templates that were absolutely gigantic blueprints with some measuring five or six feet tall by 20-30 feet long. As luck would have it, since I had done the research on all of the Missabe's diesels in order to help the model manufacturers to get their models made correctly, I still had all of those plans in my blueprint file.


The idea was for DM&IR to paint the 129 back into its exact original paint scheme. It was supposed to include the original Safety First logos with the two white dots. When 3M was contacted about making a set of those old logos off of the plans I provided the quote that the DM&IR received was more than $4,000 per logo. That was cost prohibitive so the idea to take it to that level of accuracy was quickly abandoned. Regular logos would have to suffice as they were the most cost-effective way to go.


When the 129 came out of the paint shop it had another issue. The painter applied the side frame delineators spaced out much farther apart than what the original plan showed. Frankly, he didn't want to do all of that masking, and improvised to make the work less intensive. When the unit came out of the paint shop it was missing the logos. It operated for a number of weeks in the "new old paint" without any logos at all account the paint shop actually ran out of the standard logos and didn't have any available to use when 129 was completed. But the rest of it looked pretty darn good no matter what short cuts were taken or expenses avoided. Eventually the logos were applied and the unit worked in the scheme shown here until the end of its days on Missabe rails.


This beautifully shot of the 129 taken at Keenan, Minnesota in 1991 was graciously provided by Paul K. Withers. The paint used on this locomotive was Dupont Duco Mercedes Benz Red which is the exact match for EMD's Missabe maroon color.


While this was a fun project to assist on I think that I enjoyed helping with the Great Northern 441 Locomotive Lodge project in Essex, MT. just a bit more since my research roots really are all about the Great Northern. BNSF's locomotive department had the same problem with GN 441 that Tim had experienced with Missabe 129; nobody had the stripe and lettering templates. So when BNSF called me for help on that one in 2009 I was able to provide the same kinds of things to them for the GN's F45 diesel-locomotives. I'd say that the paint shop guys at Relco know what they're doing. Here's a link to just the paint portion of the GN 441 restoration presentation or if you want to see the full project including the paint job then click


Another notable success for me in the locomotive restoration field was Burlington SD24 504 at Union, Illinois. All of the plans to do that unit came from my files too and it was a thrill to see it fully repainted into the Chinese Red and Gray scheme with the large Burlington on its sides. That happened in 2009 too although the plans were donated quite a few years prior to that. Here's a link to the full details of Q 504's restoration including the paint and lettering:


The point here is that none of this work would have happened were it not for a few gentlemen who always helped me along the way, namely Bruce Meyer, Jack Wheelihan and Scott Given, all from E.M.D. in LaGrange, IL.


Collaboration is what makes these good things come to fruition. So thanks guys, wherever you are now, for helping me along the way. By sharing what we knew we helped to get these not-so-small projects accomplished and if you ask me, that's kind of the whole point of doing the research in the first place.

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Uploaded on June 11, 2016