Old friends: Retired BNSF engineer restores locomotive he operated for 41 years
A railroader’s dedication doesn’t end when they retire; their connection to the industry lasts a lifetime.
Sam Bailey, a retired Santa Fe and BNSF locomotive engineer, singlehandedly restored a locomotive that holds a special place in his heart: the Santa Fe 5008. Though the 5008 moved all kinds of freight across the Santa Fe and then BNSF, Bailey was first behind the throttle as a hostler (who operates a locomotive between shops, yards and fueling tracks) when this SD40 locomotive was only two years old, then later operated it throughout his career as an engineer. In fact, 5008 retired just two months before he did!
Bailey was based in our Kansas City, Kansas, Argentine Yard for most of his career, starting in 1968 in the diesel shop at age 19. Following retirement 41 years later in 2009, Bailey moved back to his hometown of Marceline, Missouri. Years later, Bailey began restoring the 5008 after Trainmaster John Montgomery coordinated the donation of the locomotive to the Walt Disney Hometown Museum in Marceline. The museum is housed in the former Santa Fe station.
Marceline was specifically selected as the home for the 5008 because it was once a Santa Fe division point. Today, Marceline is a subdivision namesake on our Chicago Division. The Santa Fe 5008 is now on display alongside the Walt Disney Hometown Museum on a track used for storage.
Restoring 5008 by himself took Bailey two and a half years after the locomotive had been delivered to the site in October 2017.
“It’s all about discovery,” Bailey said. “Every time I sanded or removed paint, I discovered something new about the locomotive, like how former engine numbers had been etched into the side on the rear below the lights.”
That’s when Bailey discovered the locomotive’s previous numbers. When it left the factory in 1966, the locomotive was numbered 1708, which Bailey remembered from his days as a hostler. A few years later, the Santa Fe did a mass renumbering of locomotives and 1708 became 5008. When Santa Fe merged with Burlington Northern, newly founded BNSF renumbered it once again as 6308. Since this SD40 locomotive had operated as 5008 for most of its life, Bailey selected that as its final number.
“I loved every bit of this project, even the obstacles,” Bailey said. “I grew up with this locomotive.”
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