ALTOONA, Pa. — The PSU 2020 has rolled into its new home at the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum.
An in-kind gift to Penn State Altoona from Norfolk Southern more than a decade ago, the SD60i freight locomotive had been housed at Curry Rail Services in Hollidaysburg. Now, its ownership will be transferred to the Railroaders Memorial Museum, and it will be stored in the museum’s Harry Bennett Memorial Roundhouse.
The locomotive was originally built by General Motors for Conrail in 1995. Norfolk Southern took ownership of it in 1999 before gifting it to Penn State Altoona with the unit number PSU 2020. The donation has since enhanced the college’s Rail Transportation Engineering (RTE) program curriculum.
The location change has advantages for both the college and museum.
"The close proximity of the roundhouse and other museum facilities to that of Penn State Altoona's two campuses will afford enhancements to the students' learning opportunities and faculty research capabilities," said Steve Dillen, coordinator of the Penn State Altoona Rail Transportation Engineering Program.
According to Dillen, the railway typically must put engineering school graduates through six to 12 months of additional training to teach necessary industry skills. The RTE program handles most of this training through courses and lab experiences, thereby making graduates immediately ready for the workforce. The RTE program boasts a 100% industry employment rate for its graduates since its inception.
Although the diesel electric locomotive will remain non-operational, it will be used to teach students about locomotive parts, where components are located, and how they fit together.
In the Railroad Operations & Safety course, students will learn about the basics of controls in the cab of the locomotive and learn to identify major locomotive components. Students in the Railroad Communications & Signals course will gain exposure to vehicle-based components that are interconnected to railroad signal systems, and those in the Railroad Mechanical Practicum will participate in lab exercises with the locomotive to learn about air brake systems, diesel engines, traction motors, cooling systems, and trucks/suspension.
Additionally, various electro-mechanical engineering technology courses and independent study courses could benefit from using the locomotive. The addition to the museum's rolling stock will help propel its educational mandate and preserve a part of Conrail's heritage.
"This is a fantastic opportunity to help bridge the gap between preservation and modern-day railroading. Before the addition of this locomotive, our most recent piece of rolling stock dates to 1969 in the form of the Penn Central caboose. 'PSU 2020' is now a place holder of locomotive technology of the mid-1990s," said Joe DeFrancesco, executive director of the Altoona Railroader’s Memorial Museum. "Museums often struggle to remain relevant while preserving the past. This locomotive brings balance to our offerings."
The locomotive will provide learning opportunities and activities at the museum, DeFrancesco said, including vocational education, STEM labs, and hands-on activities that will blend practices of past and present railroading.
The locomotive is at present in a "store" state and will be considered for re-activation later. Museum visitors can expect to view the SD60i in the roundhouse during regular hours and special occasions.
"Penn State Altoona is thrilled at the many collaborative partnerships engaged in preparing and housing the SD60i at the Railroaders Memorial Museum, where it will attract and educate visitors, including students in K-12," said Penn State Altoona Chancellor Ron Darbeau. "I am thankful for the opportunity to have our Rail Transportation Engineering students and faculty access the locomotive as part of the teaching-learning and research mission of the program."
The Penn State Altoona RTE program was established in 2011 and was designed to prepare undergraduate students for the railway industry as engineering designers, managers, and professionals in various aspects of the railway, including civil engineering, mechanical and signal operations, railroad track design and maintenance, railway construction management, and railcar and locomotive design and maintenance.
The program is heavily supported by the rail industry through participation of senior executives from the industry on an advisory board that provides guidance to the program and supports it with equipment and scholarship donations.
"Through the RTE partnership and continuous growth, opportunities will develop to create a truly immersive experience," DeFrancesco said. "It is a mutual goal of both Penn State Altoona and the Railroaders Memorial Museum to utilize the SD60i as means to attract more students to the RTE program and more visitors to the museum."