Rail industry tests electric trains




While the state of California and the rail industry have begun experimenting with electric locomotives in the name of eliminating fossil fuel, such an idea was actually operational nearly 100 years ago in the salt mines of Hutchinson, Kansas.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe recently conducted a test running a freight train from Barstow, California to Stockton with an experimental battery locomotive. Operators called it a “defining moment for freight rail” accelerating the industry to eventual zero-emission locomotives.

All they had to do was check the history books to learn about the electric locomotive used by the Carey Salt Company at its mining operation at Hutchinson, Kansas. However, the salt mine locomotive did not run on a battery.

“GE Engine No. 2, one of only three such engines ever built, is now on display outside the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. Built in 1919, the antique train ran along a short railway line from 1928 – 1963 that provided switching services for the Carey Evaporation Plant and Salt Mine”

The old 60,000 pound engine, powered by a 260-horsepower overhead electric line, sits in front of STRATACA, the underground salt museum.

“The rail line was less than 6 miles, but was vital to the success of the Carey Salt Mine. In addition to providing switching services between the salt mine and the evaporation plant, it was also used by Champlin Oil Refinery, Detroiter Mobile Homes and the Kelly Mills companies.”

The locomotive ran until 1963 and was one of three original electric locomotives that ran. Engine Number 1 is on display in Perris, California. The whereabouts of Engine 3 are unknown.