GP7 engines #103 and #104 are two of the three model GP7 locomotives owned by the Pueblo Railway Foundation as part of its Colorado & Wyoming (C&W) railroad collection. These two engines, along with engine #102, “The Patriot”, are the Pueblo Railway Museum’s main “motive power”, pulling the big trains at the Museum’s public events. For more information on this website about our Patriot engine, click here. All three of the PRF’s C&W GP7 engines were manufactured by the Electro-Motive Division (EMD) of General Motors. The model GP7 was among EMD’s most successful models, with over 2700 sold. All three of these engines were originally purchased by Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation (CF&I).
Formed in 1892, CF&I had its main steel mill located on the south side of Pueblo, Colorado. CF&I started the Colorado & Wyoming railroad in 1899 as a subsidiary, for the purpose of bringing in the raw materials needed to manufacture steel. In 1951, CF&I purchased the engine that would eventually become our Patriot engine, GP7 engine #102. This engine, along with its “sister” engine #101, replaced the old steam engines that had been working for CF&I in and around the southern Colorado coal mines. In January 1952, CF&I’s subsidiary, the C&W railroad, purchased these two engines, #103 and #104, for the iron ore mines in Sunrise, Wyoming, at a cost of $300,347. This purchase was part of a broader plan by CF&I to replace its entire fleet of steam engines in little over a year.
By 1970, less than two decades later, the quality of the iron ore from the Sunrise, Wyoming mines had decreased to “low-grade”. Local blast furnaces could convert the ore into “pig iron” more economically than shipping the iron ore to Pueblo by train. With iron ore mine work slowing for our engines #103 and #104, they were brought down to Pueblo at the end of August 1971 to help run their “Unit Train Express”. The 40-car unit train was nicknamed the “Flying UTE”, a short-lived nickname very unpopular with the indigenous peoples. Instead of manually loading each coal car, the train would drive through a silo, fed by a conveyor belt directly from the underground mines. The coal cars would be filled by electronically controlled chutes inside the silos. The GP7 engines worked the unit trains until giving way to two new GP38 engines in December 1973.
Slideshow: CF&I Colorado & Wyoming GP7 engines working the mines
With the new GP38s now in charge of the coal mines, engines #103 and #104 were sent back to the Wyoming iron ore mines to fill in for some other engines that CF&I had recently sold. But as the years passed, the two GP7s had fewer and fewer trains to pull. In the end, reduced steel production caused by economic recession forced the closure of the Sunrise mines on July 13, 1980. That very day, the two engines were once again brought down to Pueblo, where they were later repainted in the orange and white colors you see today. #103 and #104 spent the next quarter century in southern Colorado working in the Pueblo and Trinidad area.
Slideshow: GP7 engines #103 & #104 in southern Colorado, 80s and 90s
On May 16, 2003, the Pueblo Railway Foundation was registered in Colorado as a nonprofit 501(c)3 public charity organization. The PRF continued the operations of the Pueblo Railway Museum, which had been started some years earlier by the Pueblo Locomotive & Railroad Historical Society (PL&RHS). This Museum is the venue where historic artifacts from Pueblo’s railroad past have been, and continue to be operated, preserved and displayed. One of the Foundation’s most urgent needs at the beginning was to acquire some working engines to be able to move equipment in their railyard. These railroad assets and equipment had been acquired by the PRF from the PL&RHS, but the PL&RHS had no “motive power”. Steve Hessey, the first president of the PRF, learned through an acquaintance named Fred Jones, that the C&W railroad had three working GP7 engines for sale. Eddie Greenhood, who had spent decades in railroading, was in charge of the CF&I shop where the C&W engines were located.
Steve Hessey, Bill Byers, current PRF president Jerry Dandurand, and his brother Vincent were the PRF members negotiating to buy the engines from CF&I. The PRF group recognized that these particular engines directly contributed to making Pueblo one of the main industrial centers of the west for much of its early history. They assured Eddie that the Foundation’s intent was to purchase the engines in order to preserve them for future generations in the city where they worked the rails. The CF&I finance department made their offer: $50,000 for one engine, two for $40,000 each, or all three for $30,000 each. Jerry was unsure how many engines the PRF could really afford, whereupon Bill Byers informed him, “Well, we need all three.” After a quick test drive outside the shop aboard one of the engines, Jerry was convinced, and the deal was made for all three locomotives. For the first few years of the PRF ownership of the engines, Eddie, the C&W shop boss, was kind enough to donate his services whenever there were any issues or needed maintenance.
Engine #103 was leased to Rock & Rail in the late summer of 2004 to help pull gravel cars from their Arkansas River quarry (one of their GP40s had broken down). At about the same time, engine #102, the future Patriot engine, was leased to the Canon City and Royal Gorge Railroad to help pull their dinner train. The third engine, #104, stayed behind at the PRF for use in the Foundation’s first public events in 2004. It was during the first few years of PRF ownership that both #103 and #104 got a fresh repaint of C&W orange and white.
Slideshow: GP7 engines #103 & #104, early PRF years, 2004-2007
Today, all three C&W locomotives continue to be workhorses for the Pueblo Railway Museum, just as they were for CF&I so many years ago.
Slideshow: GP7 engines #103 & #104, PRF recent years
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