BNSF Donates Hydrogen Test Locomotive to Oklahoma Railway Museum

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
Photo by David C. Lustig

Photo by David C. Lustig

BNSF has donated an alternative fuel testbed locomotive, most recently operated by the railroad as a hydrogen fuel cell switcher in Southern California, to the Oklahoma Railway Museum (ORM).

Built as Canadian Pacific (CP) GP9 8637 in 1957, the unit was rebuilt by CP in the mid-1980s and utilized in regular service until 2006, when it was converted to a “Green Goat,” an early form of battery-electric switcher. In 2007, the unit was acquired by BNSF and rebuilt at BNSF’s Topeka, Kans., locomotive shop facility as part of a public-private partnership between Vehicle Projects Inc., Ballard Fuel Systems, and the U.S. Department of Defense. It was renumbered 1205.

Photo by David C. Lustig

The unit was officially unveiled as a hydrogen fuel cell switcher on June 29, 2009, and was extensively tested at TTCI (Transportation Technology Center Inc., at the time an Association of American Railroads subsidiary operating under contract to the USDOT/FRA) prior to entering service at BNSF’s Hobart Yard in Los Angeles, Calif. (TTCI is now MxV Rail, which remains an AAR subsidiary, operating out of a new facility also located in Pueblo. The USDOT/FRA location is now TTC Operated by ENSCO.)

The objective of 1205’s final testbed project, BNSF says, was to “determine if hydrogen-powered fuel cell switcher locomotives could meet the operational demands and duty cycles of yard service, while producing zero emissions.” After several years of operation and data collection at Hobart Yard, the unit was retired in 2014, and recently donated to ORM by BNSF. The test unit set the stage for future developments in alternative energy technology at BNSF, which is also planning a main line hydrogen fuel cell locomotive demonstration with Progress Rail and Chevron in 2024.

Photo by David C. Lustig

“We’re thrilled to add this unique BNSF locomotive to our museum roster,” said ORM Trainmaster Greg Hall. “BNSF 1205 is in great shape, and we’ll convert it to a shove platform for use on our trains. We plan to tell the story of BNSF’s efforts to achieve reduced locomotive emissions through the development of technologies that could eventually replace fossil fuel use. We truly appreciate BNSF’s generosity.”

“Not only do we have a commitment to communities and our customers, but also to the environment,” said BNSF Executive Director of Public Affairs Jeanelle Davis. “The development and use of the BNSF 1205 is just one example of our ongoing efforts to move our nation’s freight while reducing our carbon footprint, despite already being the most environmentally friendly mode of land transportation. This locomotive has provided valuable insights and helped to set the stage for further development of alternative fuel technologies at the railroad, and we are glad we could find a home for the BNSF 1205 at the Oklahoma Railroad Museum. The ORM is a great community partner, and we value the relationship between the museum and BNSF. They provide educational opportunities about the important history and significance of the rail industry.”

Created in 1997, ORM operates several miles of former Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy) railroad main line near downtown Oklahoma City. Through train rides, historic equipment and artifacts on display, special activities, such as Polar Express trains, interpretive displays and hosting community events, ORM’s focus is on education about the region’s rich railroad heritage dating to the 1880s. Testbed equipment, such as BNSF 1205, joins historic rolling stock and locomotives that allow guests to experience examples of railroading over time and the continuing evolution of technology at the nation’s railroads.

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