9321, NYC’s Latest Abandoned Locomotive

October 1st, 2011 by

Several graffiti artists told me there was a railroad locomotive stuffed far back behind rows of cars at a nearby rail yard - seemingly abandoned. Given the high value of these large american made beasts, it seemed rather unlikely - but sure enough, there it was.

Louisville and Indiana 9321 is an old locomotive of the 'sw1200' variety. 'SW' assumingly for 'switcher' - a term used in the rail industry for sorting out rail cars in yards. You could call it a slow paced grunt worker. 1200 would be a reference to it's horsepower. This beast was build by EMD in the 1950s, for the Delware Lackawana &Western railway, as their #562. As the decades passed so too did it's ownership - through mergers, bankruptcies and eventual sale - from DLW to EL, then Penn Central and the railroad that congress created from the mess of bankrupt northeast railways at the time: Conrail. Some said Conrail was basically socialism, and that the government should get out of the railroad business. That it did, in the 1980s - when Conrail started turning profits that grew and grew. Conrail eventually sold off this small locomotive (which seems tiny now compared to the 6000hp beasts common on freight trains today) to the Louisville and Indiana railway - where it served a few years before landing a home on an NYC based railroad. I'd mention which, but to do so would basically give away where one can find this machine - which is 100% against or policy around here, no matter how ridiculous those scruples might seem sometimes.

Finding this beast was not hard. After producing 2 books on the freight tracks of NYC if there's one thing we know it's NYC's rail network. I also knew the yard well from years of visiting it at all hours of the day and night, scaring kids and stealing their paint. God what a bully I became... but toys need taxing, and freight yards occasionally need exploring.

Far in the back, I found 9321. She's been pushed far to the end of a former siding track - so far back in fact that it was pushed over a security fence, completely destroying the fence.

Doors flapping in the breeze, the 9321 has seen better days. FRA paperwork in the cab indicates that it has barely been used the last few years. This is, after all, a 50+ year old locomotive.

Its future seems uncertain. The price of scrap metal is high, but the railroad that owns it could definitely use its services. An assumption made by those in the know is that it may be sent out to be rebuilt and converted into a new, modernized locomotive known as a 'genset'. These are basically the hybrid cars of the railroad industry. Better fuel economy, less exhaust, and perhaps a new chapter in this large old american machine's history. One can only hope for such a rebirth, if only for the pure symbolism that something built so long ago in the USA can be rebuilt in the USA, and survive for potentially decades to come.

It should be noted that the railroad operating this old locomotive has a second one just like it - also 50+ years old. It's used every week.

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  • About The Author

    Bad Guy Joe

    Bad Guy Joe
    Bad Guy Joe knows more about the NYC underground than anyone else on or below the surface of this planet. He has spent nearly 30 years sneaking into NYC's more forbidden locations. When not underground, he's probably bitching about politicians or building something digital. 
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