December 1, 2022

Kansas City Shop buys FA-2 from Western Maryland

By Eric Berger

BARTON, Maryland— Motorists from Maryland to Kansas recently spotted the western Maryland FA-2 303 as the Alco body unit was moved by truck to a Kansas City railroad shop, where plans call for its restoration to serve as a control room.

His departure from a remote siding near Barton, Maryland was bittersweet for the man who saw a western Maryland FA-2 in action in the 21st century, the former owner Gerald Altizer. He purchased the unit from the Baltimore & Ohio Museum in 2000. Inspired by the efforts of Ed Bowers, who saved many rare diesel engines by purchasing them and finding new work for them, Altizer set out to acquire, repainting and running old WM engines on a stretch of their original tracks.

His hopes began to materialize when the first section of the CSX Georges Creek Subdivision was acquired in 2005 by a new branch line in which Altizer was a partner. Over the next few years, Georges Creek Railway would take control of the entire old CSX subdivision, eventually enrolling seven more WM survivors, along with a few Alco S-6 and T-6 locomotives, models operated by WM. For more than a decade, Altizer was living his dream. A cruel wake-up call came in 2019 as the railroad lost its only major customer when Verso closed its paper mill in Luke, Maryland. The closure drained the blood of the local economy and the railroad. A petition to drop GCK was filed with STB the following year, and most if not all of the GCK locomotives were sold.

The FA-2 turned into the Long Island Rail Road “Power Pack” was another matter, as it was personally owned by Altizer. Western Maryland sold its four 1951 FA-2s to GE in 1972 to convert them into control cabins for LIRR. Traction motors were removed in the process and most of the 244 main motors were replaced with smaller skid mounted motors used to generate HEP for LIRR passenger cars. As a result, such a unit is of little use for anything other than passenger excursions, so Altizer has licensed its use on Central West Virginia and the Durbin & Greenbriar Valley at separate times, much to the delight of fans. of track. Since 2016 it has stood unused near Barton, its once sparkling paintwork now fully ‘weathered’ for over two decades.

“It wasn’t easy to let go,” Altizer wrote in a message to Railway Preservation News. He always hoped to restore WM 303 to a fully functional locomotive and spent years acquiring most of the necessary components, including an Alco 12-244 prime mover.

The new owner plans to rehabilitate the unit for use as a control cabin by a tourist or heritage railway.

“I have a potential buyer who I think will be interested, but that’s not a certainty at this point,” said Mike Roberts, who bought the engine from Altizer. He expressed confidence that someone would be interested in it eventually, if not the first prospect. “I’m in no rush,” he added.

Roberts said he had plentiful space in his workshop to house the unit during construction, halting its deterioration.

Only one other WM FA-2 has survived, former WM 302/LIRR 610, owned by the Western Maryland Railway Historical Society and in long storage on the West Virginia Central.

It’s unclear if the WM 303 will remain in the paint scheme it originally wore for 21 years and has worn again for the past 22, or if a new owner will want to revive the paint scheme. painting of another of the two dozen railroads that had Alco freight cabins. . Whatever the outcome, Gerald Altizer can take comfort in knowing that WM 303 has resided on WM rails even longer in this century than in the last, thanks to his efforts.