Diesel Era Rail News

Genesee Valley Transportation Acquires Historic Alco PA NKP 190

Doyle McCormack and Genesee Valley Transportation President Michael Thomas shake hands in Portland, Ore., on Wednesday, March 1, after finalizing a deal to bring Nickel Plate Road PA 190 east to Pennsylvania’s Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad. —Photo Courtesy of GVT Rail

Genesee Valley Transportation Acquires Historic Alco PA NKP 190

PORTLAND, OREGON – Genesee Valley Transportation Co., Inc. (GVT Rail System) has agreed to purchase rail preservationist Doyle McCormack’s Alco PA locomotive, “Nickel Plate 190.” GVT Rail President Michael D. Thomas and Mr. McCormack met at the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation museum in Portland to celebrate the historic arrangement on Wednesday, March 1st. For the first time in more than four decades, an Alco PA will return to home rails and be restored for main line passenger excursions.

For Alco, the PA locomotive was their signature contribution to the booming streamliner passenger train equipment market following World War II. Built in December of 1948, “Nickel Plate 190” (NKP 190) started life as Santa Fe no. 62L, one of twenty-eight such A-units ordered by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe from Alco’s Schenectady, N.Y., plant. After two decades in passenger service for the Santa Fe, the 62L and three sister units were put on the path to long-term preservation when the Santa Fe sold them to the Delaware & Hudson Railroad (D&H), where the PA 62L was given road-number 18.

Santa Fe 62L

ABOVE: Santa Fe 62L at San Diego, Calif., 1965. —Photographer Unknown

Under the guidance of president C. Bruce Sterzing, the PA’s archetypal “Beauty Queen of Diesels” moniker was certified in full-color Kodachrome via a decade of service on D&H passenger trains such as The Laurentian and The Adirondack, as well as numerous excursion specials and business trains throughout the northeastern United States. The 18 and her sister PAs made countless trips over the D&H Pennsylvania Division, the Scranton-Carbondale segment of which is now operated by GVT Rail’s Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad (DL) on behalf of the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to obtain the Spirit of St. Louis of locomotives,” said Michael Thomas, President of GVT Rail. “On behalf of our ownership group and the entire team at GVT Rail, we are ecstatic that Doyle has entrusted us with the stewardship of his great gift to rail preservation.”

Delaware & Hudson 18

ABOVE: Delaware & Hudson 18, Boston, Mass., October 1977. —Jim Boyd, WRP Collection

In 1975, all four D&H Alco PA locomotives were sent to Morrison-Knudsen, Co., in Boise, Idaho, and completely rebuilt for the restart of passenger service from New York City to Montreal via the New York State-sponsored Adirondack. At MK, the troublesome Alco 244 prime mover (motor) was replaced with the reliable and common Alco 251 block.

The PAs handled the D&H leg of the trip (Albany-Montreal) until Amtrak’s 1976 purchase of RTL Turboliner trainsets. This spelled the end of D&H operation of The Adirondack, and the PAs entered a brief period of freight service on the D&H, followed by an equally brief showing in commuter train service for Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. In 1978, all four remaining PAs were sold to the Mexican National Railways and by 1981, all were retired from service to museums south of the border.

Then at the turn of a new century, queue the visionary efforts of noted railway preservationist Doyle McCormack. Working with the Mexican and U.S. governments and the Smithsonian Institution, two of the four Alco PAs returned to the United States in 2000, though all that was left at that point were the empty shells of what once was. One of the PA shells made its way to the Museum of the American Railroad in Texas, while Mr. McCormack spent the past two decades restoring the primary mechanical functions and aesthetic elements of his PA locomotive. His master stroke—a tribute paint scheme to Nickel Plate Road 190, the first locomotive that Mr. McCormack rode in as a boy growing up in Ohio. “It’s been a long road and a remarkable story for this locomotive,” Mr. McCormack said. “We couldn’t be happier than to see NKP 190 go to a family of railroads like GVT Rail.”

Delaware & Hudson 18

ABOVE: Delaware & Hudson 18 at Colonie, N.Y., April 1976.WRP Collection

“Whether it’s put on display or in operation, NKP 190 will serve as a significant tourism draw for Scranton and all of Northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Congressman Matt Cartwright (PA-08). “In addition to boosting our local economy, this significant vestige of Pennsylvania history will remind us of our nation’s industrial past while serving as a beacon for the return of passenger rail service to our region.”

In the coming weeks, the PA will make the transcontinental journey from Oregon to Scranton and GVT’s Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad. As the foremost proprietor and user of Alco locomotives in the world, GVT’s crack team of locomotive mechanics at the Von Storch Locomotive Shops will evaluate NKP 190’s current condition and scope out what work remains to return the locomotive to service leading GVT Rail/Delaware-Lackawanna office car specials
(OCS), railfan ‘ramblers’ and additional special event passenger train excursions.

“The current GVT leadership team has been making the case for acquiring this one-of-a-kind gem for half a decade now,” said Charlie Monte Verde, GVT Rail’s Vice President of Strategic Planning. “We appreciate Mr. McCormack’s efforts and vision in returning the locomotive to the U.S. and are honored that he chose “The Alco Road” for the PA’s permanent home. We look forward to a day in the very near future when the PA makes her first main line run in more than four decades, on home rails, with Mr. McCormack at the throttle.”

—via Press Release

Diesel Era