By J. Bruce Richardson, Corridor Rail Development Corporation; January 21, 2021
It’s a cold, snowy winter’s day in Chicago in 1960 under the train shed of the Chicago and North Western Terminal.
Two brutes, the epitome of mid-century diesel strength and technology stand, side by side, at rest and awaiting their next turn to launch out of the terminal pulling a string of passenger cars.
The station is now the Ogilvie Transportation Center, and newer generations of passenger diesels ply the tracks, hauling commuters from the suburbs to work downtown and then home, again. The commuters, too, are a new generation, the grandchildren of the commuters who rode behind these brutes.
The C&NW, famous for its “400s” and streamliner commuter trains, in 1960 was still fielding a full roster of passenger trains.
Our two brutes, shown here, have a bit of a grimy face and probably more than a few scratches here and there. But, like their hundreds of cousins all over North America, are ready to hit the road, again, and reliably more than pull their weight efficiently. These two are of a mid-century generation where it was possible the only “high tech” aspect of these locomotives was that the engineer had a radio to stay in contact with the conductor and dispatcher. Everything else was mechanical.
The passenger diesels of this generation were an advertising man’s dream; in more than one advertisement for train travel, the locomotive’s windows became eyes, the headlight a nose, with the mouth below. They had a friendly look about them, modern, yet powerful. When this generation was being produced after World War II, steam locomotives were still operating on mainline trains, and the public perception of passenger and freight trains would change from locomotives belching smoke to much quieter and less complicated diesels rumbling down the tracks.
It’s now seven decades since these diesel locomotives were introduced. They look good, for their age. To many of us, they look ageless.