Donated by BNSF Railway to the Southern California Railway Museum (SCRM) in fall 2021, retired former Santa Fe locomotive 5704 has been cosmetically restored to its eye-catching, patriotic, mid-1970s, bicentennial red, white and blue scheme. Over the past several months, craftsmen at Mid-America Car in Kansas City , Mo. , applied their skills to replicate the locomotive’s appearance when it came out of the Santa Fe Railway San Bernardino, Calif., shops to celebrate America ’s 200th birthday on July 4, 1976.
5704 was one of five, General Motors Electro-Motive Division, 3,600 horsepower, SD45-2 locomotives Santa Fe painted into its unique bicentennial scheme. Santa Fe ’s bicentennial locomotives were initially placed at the front of the railroad’s Super C premium freight trains operating between Chicago and Los Angeles at passenger train speeds. These locomotives also assisted with the operation of the American Freedom Train while on Santa Fe lines, and for special events such as the 1976 grand opening of the railroad’s $50 million Barstow Classification Yard in southern California. By the end of 1978, all five Santa Fe bicentennial locomotives had been repainted into the company’s standard blue and yellow livery.
After the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) was formed in 1995, 5704 continued to move the world’s commerce on the company’s freight trains, eventually being retired after more than four decades and millions of miles of service. By 2021, 5704 (renumbered to BNSF 6484) was the last remaining intact former Santa Fe bicentennial locomotive. BNSF authorized its donation to the SCRM with the latter’s goal of restoring it to bicentennial splendor.
“Numerous individuals and organizations embraced this restoration effort,” stated Hank Winn, SCRM vice president and chief operating officer. “Stephen Priest was the on-site project manager in Kansas City, which made a lot of sense given his proximity, knowledge, experience, expertise as an author and publisher, model railroad industry consultant, master model railroader and historian on all things Santa Fe. Without Stephen’s tireless pursuit of perfection, this project would have been much more challenging and we appreciate, and applaud, the investment of his time and energy on behalf of SCRM.”
Mid-America Car donated the expertise of its skilled craftsmen to transform 5704 backward in time in every detail. “The Mid-America Car team worked diligently to ensure the bicentennial version of 5704 was perfectly replicated,” said Stephen Priest. “Sherwin-Williams replicated the paint color formulas for Santa Fe ’s bicentennial locomotives. They not only replicated them for this restoration project, they donated the paint. It’s been meticulously applied, with three coats of each color, plus clear coat to preserve the color integrity and protect the paint from the elements. Sherwin-Williams and Eagle Graphics of Wichita, Kan., can take much of the credit for ensuring 5704’s appearance in 2022 is true to its appearance in 1976. The collaboration and enthusiasm amongst all involved has truly been inspiring.”
Currently, Santa Fe 5704 is scheduled to remain in the Kansas City area until early summer, when its move to the SCRM is anticipated. “After receiving 5704 at our museum in Perris, we will assess what is needed to mechanically restore the locomotive to operating condition,” Winn indicated. “Our team at Perris is capable of making that happen if the material resources can be acquired and that is our goal. That’s a ways off, so for now we look forward to enjoying the cosmetic restoration when 5704 journeys from Kansas City to Perris.”
Restoration donations for Santa Fe 5704 and other pieces at SCRM can be made at: https://socalrailway.org/give/
—via Press Release