DL&W GP7 Locomotive #959

Lackawanna Railroad (DL&W) GP7 No. 959 is the only surviving Lackawanna road locomotive of any kind.

The Lackawanna purchased 15 freight GP7s, Nos. 951-965, in 1951 to complete the transition from steam to diesel on freight trains. Six passenger-equipped GP7s, Nos. 965-970 (with distinctive air tanks on the roof to make room for added water tanks for the steam heat boilers) did the job on the suburban passenger trains. All of them survived into the Erie Lackawanna merger in 1960, and DL&W No. 959 became EL No. 1278.

After the Conrail merger in 1976, EL No. 1278 became CR No. 5993. Many of the former Lackawanna GP7s were systematically rebuilt into GP8s in the late 1970s. CR No. 5993 was no exception, and it was rebuilt into GP8 No. 5460 by Morrison-Knudsen in November of 1978. After another decade of service, most of the GP8s were traded in on newer power in the late 1980s. The last two units, Conrail Nos. 5460 and 5461 (Lackawanna Nos. 959 and 960, respectively) were retired on April 11, 1991 and shipped off in trade in 1994. They wound up at Pielet Brothers scrap yard, near EMD's LaGrange, Illinois factory where they had been built.

The contractual obligation with Pielet Brothers was that no locomotive that went in could ever leave as a working locomotive. But a miracle occurred, beginning with a request by Tri-State's president Mike DelVecchio and EMD field service manager Jack Wheelihan, who both requested that the frame numbers be cut off and set aside as a keepsake. Pielet Brothers agreed and Conrail No. 5460 was set aside and not cut up with the 5461.

A nearly new No. 959 is pictured here in Binghamton, NY in the early 1950s. (DL&W photo)

Proving that No. 959 is right at home in Scranton, here's a mid-1950s photo of the locomotive working the yards in town. (Chuck Yungkurth photo)

EL No. 1278 sits at the shop in Akron, OH in the mid-1970s. (Fred Stuckmann photo)

Four years after being rebuilt into a GP8, Conrail No. 5460 rests between assignments in Buffalo on October 10, 1982. (John C. Benson photo)

Delaware-Lackawanna No. 5460, pictured here on August 18, 2014, has just arrived at their shops in Scranton, and is awaiting return to running condition prior to restoration to DL&W colors by Tri-State. (Rudy Garbely photo)

A year went by and the Pielet Brothers yard locomotive suffered a fatal failure. The working No. 5460 became the yard switcher. In 2001, the scrap yard closed and the locomotive was sold to Vulcan Materials, which operates the quarries surrounding the EMD plant at LaGrange. The 5460 became the second locomotive of several thousand to ever leave Pielet Brothers in operating condition (the other being the Burlington E5 streamliner at the Illinois Railway Museum). The 5460 was soon sent to Vulcan's quarry in Kankakee, Illinois where it was operating daily on heavy stone trains.

It was a letter to Vulcan from Tri-State in 2011 that started the events rolling to preserve Lackawanna's last road unit. Vulcan's plant manager responded that 5460's retirement was being talked about, and after some discussions Vulcan agreed to allow 5460 to be preserved while still in operating condition. As part of a multi-party deal, Tri-State and its supporters purchased the locomotive from Vulcan, then immediately resold it to the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad of Scranton, PA.

The Delaware-Lackawanna, owned by Genesee Valley Transportation in Batavia, NY, is among the heroes in this project for incredible support and mechanical help to make the 5460 suitable for interchange. As part of its 30th Anniversary festivities, Norfolk Southern was very generous in moving 5460 to the Delaware-Lackawanna interchange in Portland, PA.

The legal ownership of 5460 remains with the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad. Part of Tri-State's obligation is to paint the No. 959 historically for use around the Steamtown National Historic Site. Currently Tri-State is raising money to paint the Geep, and providing volunteer labor to reach that goal. As painting the No. 959 is a one-time project, Tri-State will not be responsible for the maintenance of this locomotive.

 

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