Museum of the American Railroad

Project Alco PA - Restoring the Legendary Santa Fe Chief Passenger Locomotive - How You Can Help Minimize

The Alco PA-1 diesel locomotives, particularly those used on Santa Fe, enjoy a very loyal following. The Museum of the American Railroad is proud to be the steward of one of a handful still in existence - and the only unit to be restored to its original Santa Fe appearance. In order to restore #59L and return it to its former grandeur, we need to cultivate stakeholders in the project nationwide. This is your opportunity to participate in the creation of something that only currently exists in photographs and legend. We are seeking your support through funding of this project and fulfilling needs for certain goods and services. The rail enthusiast community has an opportunity to take an active role in an exciting project that will celebrate the history of this locomotive and inspire future generations.

All cash and in-kind contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. To make a cash contribution, you may send a check to the Museum's mailing address:  Museum of the American Railroad, 6455 Page Street, Frisco, Texas  75034. To make a one-time or recurring contribution to the Alco PA Restoration Project, click below. You will be directed to PayPal for payment, though you do not need a PayPal account to make a donation.

You can also help by spreading the word about the project, following its progress, and joining the discussion on the project's Facebook page. 

The stunning image of Santa Fe's PA 51 used above was beautifully restored by Wernher Krutein and is available for purchase at his website,
Current Needs Minimize

Funds to secure the services of our highly experienced welder/steel fabricator for Phase one cab repairs. The approximate cost of this initial work is $50,000. This will make a profound difference in the appearance of the locomotive and demonstrate significant progress toward restoration of the carbody. 

Alco PA/FA parts, including a replacement front door and carbody doors. If you have any additional parts you think we could use, please contact us. Fortunately, many Alco FA parts are common to PA locomotives.  

In lieu of ballast to properly weight #59L's carbody, we are seeking an appropriate replacement engine and main generator, ideally an Alco V-12 Model 251 engine.

Drawings, diagrams, manuals, photographs, video, etc. of Alco PAs - particularly the Santa Fe #59L. 

Contact friends, share the excitement of this project, and invite them to help!

For more information about the project or to make a contribution, please email our Project Manager, Robert Willis, at

Project Alco PA - Background Minimize
In May, 2011 the Museum took delivery of ex-Santa Fe Railway Alco PA-1 locomotive #59L. The locomotive joins the Museum's Historic Santa Fe Collection, and is one of two Alco PAs repatriated from Mexico in 2000 through the efforts of William Withuhn of the Smithsonian Institution and noted railway preservationist Doyle McCormack.
The #59L and its running mate #62L, are now among the rarest early generation diesel locomotives in the U.S.  Through an agreement with the Smithsonian, #62L was painstakingly restored to Nickel Plate Road livery and numbered 190 by Mr. McCormack, while #59L was to have become part of the SI's collection. Plans for the Smithsonian unit changed, and the locomotive sat in a rail yard near Portland, OR for almost 10 years. When it appeared that #59L was headed for an uncertain fate, the Museum expressed interest in acquiring and restoring the locomotive. 

Through the generosity of the Smithsonian and a commitment of transportation by the BNSF Railway, the locomotive was donated and moved to the Museum’s new home in Frisco, TX. The unit was offloaded from flatcars and reassembled onto its trucks. The PA-1 will be meticulously restored to its original Santa Fe grandeur of the 1950s, when it could be found powering the line’s famous fleet of Chief streamliners. 

“It’s the successful end of a 26-year saga to rescue AT&SF 59…Now it’s the beginning of a new role for this great American icon thanks to the Museum of the American Railroad.” --William Withuhn, Curator Emeritus, Smithsonian Institution

Having reached sanctuary in Texas, the Museum is developing a comprehensive plan for restoration of the unit’s carbody. The locomotive is in need of extensive repairs as a result of a 1981 derailment while in service in Mexico. Work will include repair and replacement of the underlying carbody truss work. Fortunately, the locomotive’s platform (frame) and forward vertical posts are undamaged, providing an excellent base along with reference points for structural repairs. The use of truss work in #59L’s carbody design is essentially that of a bridge; once these damaged members are repaired and/or replaced, the locomotive’s exterior panels can be fabricated and applied. 

Click here for the compelling story of the repatriation of Alco PA-1 #59L - Saved by Bill Withuhn.

What's Next for Santa Fe #59L Minimize
We are very grateful to those individuals and organizations that enabled us to acquire and move the #59L to its new home in Frisco. Obviously, much work lies ahead in order to restore this historic locomotive to its former Santa Fe grandeur.

We will tackle this massive project in phases. Phase One will entail repairs and restoration of the cab/nose section of the unit. This will involve replacement of several exterior compound steel panels on the cab roof and nose, along with the underlying structural skeleton to which they are attached. A replacement nose door will be located or fabricated and installed (the original door was stolen just prior to movement to Texas).  Additional components are being repaired such as the MARS signal light, the signature rooftop number boards, horns (2 Leslie A200-156), and cab controls. The locomotive's pilot and anti-climber will also be repaired/replaced as part of Phase One work.

After initial repairs to the forward section are completed, work on the carbody will begin. This is undoubtedly the most challenging part of #59L's restoration. The carbody's underlying truss-work was heavily damaged in the 1981 derailment when the locomotive essentially rolled on its side/roof. Using the undamaged vertical posts just ahead of the cab side doors as a reference point, the truss-work will be realigned and/or replaced in order bring the carbody into tram from front to rear. All vertical truss members will be made plumb to the side sills and roof sills.  Once symmetry of the truss-work is reestablished, the locomotive will receive ballast to compensate for the loss of its prime mover (engine and main generator). This will achieve its original service weight and compress the truck suspensions. A full set of locomotive prints has been secured from Alco Engineering Archives, which provides great detail of all aspects of the locomotive’s design and dimensions. Plans are also being developed to fabricate a suitable substitute for the side air intake grills. A sample of the original stainless steel grills is being used to develop a cost-effective replacement design.  

After structural integrity of the locomotive's carbody has been restored, we will move toward the application of new roof and exterior side sheeting, including the stainless steel floating panels that were unique to Santa Fe versions of the PA-1s. Final cosmetic work will entail painting the locomotive in DuPont's Imron polyurethane enamel in the classic Santa Fe Warbonnet scheme (see Project F-7).

The locomotive will be placed on permanent exhibit at the Museum's new facility in Frisco. Interpretation will include its contribution to the post-war streamliner era of railroading and the legacy of Santa Fe's famous Chief streamliners to California and Texas. The locomotive's years of service as Delaware & Hudson #16 "M.A. Davis," and National Railroad of Mexico DH-16 will also be included in its interpretation.    
Acknowledgements Minimize


William Withuhn, Curator of Technology and Transportation, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

William Withuhn, Curator Emeritus, Smithsonian Institution
Peter Liebhold, Chair Work & Industry Div., Smithsonian Institution
Doyle McCormack

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway
Albany & Eastern Railroad
Doyle McCormack
Friends of the SP 4449, Portland, Oregon
Crocker Crane

George Barlow         Alton Hall         Joe McMillan 
John Benson
  Russell Heintzelman
  Edwin Pegelow, Ph.D.
R. W. Chamberlain
  Joel Holland    Richard H. Pfeiffer
David Cooper    Richard Jahn
  Stephen Priest, Paired Rail Railroad Productions, LTD
Allan Dennison    Max James
  J. Allen Rider
David Dust
  Douglas Kydd
  Wilfred Rutledge
Hailey Enoch    Jason Lambert
  The Family of Ron Simosky
Hiram K. Evans    David Lindquist
  Allan Shulke
Edward A. Fernau, Alco Historic Photos    Lawson Little
  Scott Watson
Michael Forman    Denis Long
  Robert Willis
Henry Frick    Bobb Losse, Sr.
  Martin Wipraechtiger
Steve Gaskin    John D. "Jack" Maxon
  Jason Woods
Thomas Greenman    Doyle McCormack
  Paul Yurko
Christina and William Gibson
  Doug McLaughlin

Bruce Meyer Collection - Kalmbach Memorial Library
Frisco Wholesale Lumber, Inc.
Trinity Forge - Mansfield, Texas
Project Alco PA Image Gallery Minimize
All Albums » In-Service Views of #59L Search Tags 
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