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August 1947: A sound foreign to Bluffton’s ears

The first-ever diesel locomotive passed through town on a test run

By Fred Steiner

Remember seeing your first-ever electric-driven vehicle in Bluffton? Compare that to the following image: It passed through Bluffton in an unusual color scheme (reddish-orange) blasting a very foreign sound (a “hoarse” whistle).

Bluffton residents witnessed the beginning of a new era in August 1947 as the first-ever diesel locomotive hauled freight cars through town on a test run. 

Prior to that, only steam-powered, coal-fed black locomotives with their distinct deep-throated song visited here. 

Although not earth shattering today, railroad’s switch from steam to diesel, was like switching from a gas-driven vehicle to one powered by electric batteries.

The Bluffton News even published the event on its Aug. 21, 1947 front page. Here’s the headline and story.

Diesel engines to be added in fall on Nickel Plate

First demonstrator goes thru Bluffton Sunday on test run

Plan to put diesels on NKP Flyers this year; May discontinue stops here

Sunday’s run of the demonstrator was witnessed by only a handful of persons, gathered at the station to see the locomotive, for advance notice that the train was coming thru was received here only a couple hours before it was scheduled.

Forerunner of a fleet to be added in a Nickel Plate Railroad improvement program, the first diesel-powered locomotive seen in Bluffton went over the tracks of the railroad here Sunday afternoon at 3:20 p.m.

Hauling the regular afternoon thru freight, the diesel engine burning oil for fuel was on a demonstration run ordered by railroad officials, who are said to be contemplating adding 11 diesels on the Nickel Plate system this fall.

Two of the new-type engines are scheduled for operation on the Sandusky-Peoria division, thru Bluffton, to pull the St. Louis-Cleveland Flyer. It is expected that the change from steam to diesel locomotion will be made in late fall, approximately November or December.

Photos and the rest of this feature HERE.