Thursday, August 29, 2019

BNSF at the Millennium in the Cherokee Strip

Post Script

My friend Dale Jacobson suggested that I supplement the article on the Cherokee Strip with the few images I have of the Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad.  Although obviously not part of the gigantic BNSF system, the BNGR does operate over a former AT&SF branch line that ran from Ponca City, Oklahoma, to Wellington, Kansas, providing a connection of sorts between Santa Fe's north/south mainline from Chicago to Texas, with the railroad's transcontinental mainline from Chicago to California.  I doubt, however, that the line ever saw much use as a connector.  In any event, the line from Blackwell to Ponca City was abandoned years ago.  Well, AT&SF is close enough to BNSF for me.  Plus, Blackwell was settled in 1893 as part of the Cherokee Strip Land Run.  So I herein include a brief discussion of this tiny shortline.

BNGR operates 35.26 miles on track now owned by the State of Oklahoma between Blackwell and Hunnewell, Kansas, with additional rights on track owned by the Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad, extending to Wellington.  At one time, the Kansas and Oklahoma operated the branch.

That is all I know about this tiny operation.  Dale and I visited it one fall day in 2017 and found no activity other than a single employee finishing paper work.  At that time, the railroad leased three locomotives parked at various locations.  One was in Blackwell, one in Hunnewell, and the third in South Haven, Kansas.  None was operating.

This unit was parked in Blackwell and looked as though it had been sitting, unused, for a few months.  If you look closely underneath the cab window, you will see the symbol EWLX, which stands for "Everywhere West Leasing," a small company that leases old locomotives to short lines.  According to the company's web site, which can be found at, this unit is EWLX 1617, a GP-7, built for the CB&Q Railroad, then "passed through several owners before coming to Everywhere West Locomotive Leasing.  When EWLL obtained the 1617 it was not in running condition due to numerous water leaks.  EWLL went through and resealed all power assemblies and put the locomotive back in service on the Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad, where it has been very reliable."

EWLX 815 is a GP-30, built for the C&NW, which sold it to the Fox River Railroad, which was later absorbed by the the Wisconsin Central, where the unit was renumbered to 2252.  When Canadian National bought the Wisconsin Central, 2252 was retired and put up for auction.  The Northern Illinois and Wisconsin Railroad purchased the 2252 and returned it to the original number.  "Everywhere West Locomotive Leasing purchased the 815 and currently has it slated to have a complete low voltage rewire followed with some body work and painting.  815 is currently serving the Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad where is has been a work horse for many years."  We found this unit in Hunnewell, Kansas.

This unit also bears the "EWLX" symbol; however, the company's web site does not (as of September 2019) list this unit as either "leased" or "available for lease," making me think that the locomotive is no longer operative.  (The web site only lists three units as "leased," and three as "available for lease," so you can see that this is, indeed, a small operation.)

Following is Dale's description of the above unit:  "[This is] 
a former C&O SD18 with Alco trucks used from old Alco locomotives traded in on this series of engines.  It was painted into the Chessie System (CS) scheme sometime in the early 70's.  I think EWLX got this unit from another short line, but I'm not sure which.  It may have been the Chesapeake & Indiana RR (C&I) that runs over some former C&O trackage centered at La Crosse, Indiana."  This unit was parked in South Haven, Kansas. 

So there you have it -- my homage to the Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad. 

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