June 30, 2022

Cody’s Trackside Finds: a network-sized engine terminal

BNSF Ry. The locomotive terminal in downtown Sioux Falls, SD has a footprint that would fit perfectly on a miniature railroad. The engine room can accommodate two four-axle road locomotives. Photo by Cody Grivno

When you think of the engine installations on the BNSF Ry., Pictures of large multi-bay structures; washing racks; and sand towers and fuel columns that can handle 10 or more locomotives at a time probably come to mind. And that makes perfect sense given the size of the railroad. BNSF has facilities like this at Alliance (Neb. And Texas); Barstow and Commerce, California; Chicago; Havre, Mont .; Lincoln, Neb. ; Minneapolis; Kansas City, Kansas; and Seattle.

However, between these large stores are smaller terminals. While railing at BNSF in Sioux Falls, SD, I came across a terminal that looked like something torn off a miniature railroad. The heart of the facility is a metal engine room which can house two four-axle road locomotives. The structure dates back to the mid-1950s when its predecessor Great Northern operated the line.

Metal engine with worn white and green paint and two BNSF Ry.  road locomotives parked next to it.
BNSF Ry. GP50 no. 3125 and GP39-3 no. 2557 wait between assignments on the east side of the engine room. The structure was built in the mid-1950s for its predecessor Great Northern Ry. Photo by Cody Grivno

On the west side of the structure is a single story hump. This is where the train crews are on duty. It also houses a cloakroom, dining room and laundry facilities. As you can see in the image, they added outdoor storage space using a 20ft intermodal container and barn-shaped garden shed, both painted beige.

Metal machinery with one-story hump and assorted road locomotives in the background.
This photo taken on a previous visit shows the green and white paint in better condition. The west side of the building has a one-story hump. This part of the building is where the crews are on duty. It also houses changing rooms, a dining room and sanitary facilities. Photo by Cody Grivno

To the southeast of the building is a two-lane sanding tower. The tower is located between two sidings where the locomotives are stored outside between assignments. The tower does not serve the runway that goes into the engine room.

Two-way blue sanding tower with BNSF Ry.  road locomotive in the background.
The sanding tower is located between two sidings where the locomotives are stored outside between assignments. In the background, BNSF Ry. GP25 no. 3159. The unit was built in November 1985 as the Burlington Northern 3159 with an extended cabin for five-man crews. Photo by Cody Grivno

What type of work takes place here? Sioux Falls forces are doing what is called “routine repairs”. Refueling and sanding, replacing burnt out headlight and ditch bulbs, and replacing brake shoes are just a few examples. Most of the work is left to one of the major stores listed above.

Modeling Considerations
Sioux Falls machinery could be constructed from styrene and matching retail parts for items such as roof vents, chimney, windows and doors. If you’re looking for standard options to recreate a scene similar to this, here are a few options:

Metal single track machinery
Monroe Models (2219 [HO], 9219 [N])
Pikestuff (541-5000 [HO]), 541-8002 [N])
Wm. K. Walthers Inc. (933-2985 [HO])

Sand tower
Limited US Models (5500 [HO assembled] and 5100 [HO kit])
Structure (1011) [HO]) Stewart Products (115 [HO], 1114 [N])
Wm. K. Walthers Inc. (933-3182 [HO], 933-38313 [N])


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