Getting on Track

Madison receives NASA train
locomotive No. 3 for freight line

Madison Railroad acquired locomotive
after it was retired

(August 2015) – After many years of service, a historic red, white and blue locomotive in May was delivered to the Madison Railroad in Madison, Ind., from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Locomotive No. 3 was one of three SW1500 model locomotives secured by NASA in the early 1980s for the space shuttle program. No. 3 was the last locomotive to be used by the Kennedy Space Center when the Space Shuttle was being shut down. It was the only one of the three to receive the NASA Railroad’s latest paint scheme.

Photo provided

NASA’s locomotive No. 3 was used in the Space Shuttle program at Kennedy Space Center until its recent retirement.

The locomotive already is being used by the Madison Railroad in day-to-day operations after having been thoroughly checked by mechanics and engineers, according to Madison Railroad CEO Cathy Hale. The locomotive has finally been retired due to the shutdown of NASA. It  was used to transport rocket boosters from Utah to the Space Center.
The Madison Railroad operates from Madison to North Vernon, Ind., with 25 miles of track outside the Jefferson Proving Grounds, a former U.S. Army ammunition testing base, and 15 miles of track inside the grounds.
The Madison Railroad is operated by the nine-member board of directors through the City of Madison Port Authority. All the members of the board are appointed by the mayor and are bipartisan.
NASA turned all three locomotives into the federal surplus program out of Georgia. The state of Indiana then applied to receive the surplus. When items are going to be disposed of, they let the states know in case they can be bought before they’re disposed.

Photo provided

The newly acquired locomotive No. 3 from NASA sits on the tracks outside Madison Railroad’s office inside the Jefferson Proving Ground. The locomotive is already in service hauling freight line between Madison and North Vernon.

“I basically bugged the guy with all the unreleased information about the locomotive every two weeks for a year,” Hale said.
She explained how the Madison Railroad was eligible to take in the surplus items if they were available, so they immediately applied to get the locomotive when the opportunity presented itself.
The Madison Port Authority spent under $10,000 when it was actually worth about $400,000, Hale said.
“We investigated and found out which one was the best of the three and picked the third one because it has the new paint job and was most mechanically and structurally sound compared to the others,” said Roger Fuehring, a mechanic for the Madison Railroad.
Hale and her team had all the paperwork done but were not able to get locomotive No. 1 because it went to a museum in Florida. The second locomotive went to a port in Louisiana. However, they got lucky with the third locomotive and were able to get it after a year of closely following it.

Madison Railroad CEO Cathy Hale

“We had a whole packet of the paperwork and all the letters of support from the state senators, representatives and a U.S. congressman,” said Hale. “When the opportunity presented itself, we went for it.”
Many Madison Railroad staff members made the trip to Florida to see the locomotive at the Kennedy Space Center to prepare for its arrival in May.
“We have never had three engines in service here at the Madison Railroad,“ said Fuehring.
The Madison Railroad is also in the midst of a $3.4 million rehabilitation project on the train tracks between the Madison hilltop and JPG. The current train track is made up of 70-pound steel and is now being replaced with 115-pound steel.  The contractors had their bid opening in February, and it was awarded to the Associated Railroad Contractors of Louisville, Ky.
The track has already been updated on the north end of the line and has now moved onto the Madison portion. The new NASA locomotive will be traveling along these new tracks in the future.
A dedication ceremony is being planned later this fall to officially honor and recognize the men and women who have served, past and present, in the NASA Space Program.
The state of Indiana has produced more astronauts than any other state, thanks to Purdue University.
The state’s Bicentennial will be next year, and the locomotive will be pulling the business car carrying the torchbearers for the event.
Casey Goode, an employee of the Madison Railroad, said, “The new locomotive will be excellent for the training of future engineers and is a great addition to our family.”
It certainly has had an honored past with NASA, but now it has a bright future here in Indiana.

Back to August 2015 Articles.



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