The RMT US Coast Guard #1790 boxcar features the Coast Guard logo superimposed on 2 pieces of USCG-related railroad equipment.
On the right side is the USCG painted caboose (former ALASKA RR) that served as a port office for the USCG in Whittier, Alaska.
On the left is a USCG diesel that was painted in July, 1977 as a tribute to the US Coast Guard and operated by the Central Vermont RR as CV #4924 in New England, home of the USCG Academy in New London, Conn.
Read the story about how the CV/Central Vermont Rwy. locomotive came to be painted in these special colors.
The Coast Guard Locomotive
By George A. Cassidy
In 1979 I was in the U.S. Coast Guard and serving at the Academy as the Assistant Public Affairs Officer. One day I was sitting in my office in Hamilton Hall when I heard the whistle of the locomotive of a train going through the Academy grounds. I came up with the idea of creating a Coast Guard locomotive.
I approached my boss, LT George Whiting, PIa at the Academy at the time, and he gave his full support. Malcolm Clark was Superintendent at the time. I approached RADM (Rear Admiral) Clark with the idea and he told me to go ahead-as long as it didn't cost the Coast Guard any money. I contacted the Central Vermont Railway, and they agreed to it-if it didn 't cost them any money, either. This resulted in a challenge, but we got the jobdone-for zero dollars. It seemed to all work out well.
We started with a Central Vermont Railway GP-9, a 124-ton, 56-foot-long engine built in 1956. The USCG logo on the locomotive came from the USCG Cutter Cape Fairweather, home-ported in New London thanks to a chief boatswain mate who was also a rail fan. We added lots of Coast Guard Academy cadets, rags and paint. Most of the painting actually was done by the Viking Ford Dealership in East Lyme, CT. We had just purchased a brand-new Pinto"; station wagon from them, and thus had a little leverage. So they did it for free-but of course, they did get something: to put their name on the back, lower portion of the rear hood on the engineer's side!
My wife got the good job of painting the tire rims (locomotive wheels) white-a no-no with the FRA on diesels. (The Central Vermont let it ride at first, but six months later, the tires were no longer painted.) We also tried to polish the bell on the nose, but it just wouldn't come clean ... so we painted it gold. The Coast Guard flags were displayed in the flag holders on the unit, and the American flag in the coupler. The CVRR Road Foreman, shortly before we "launched" the locomotive in ceremonies at the CV roundhouse in New London, placed red and green lamps-"running lights"-in the classification lights on the nose.
When we christened the locomotive RADM Clark's wife Ann smashed a bottle of bubbly on it. In order to make this a grand event, I had shaken up the bottle beforehand. This worked so well that Mrs. Clark got covered in champagne, from head to foot! She told my wife that she was going home to "suck her dress." I never let on what I did!
This was the invitation: THE UNITED STATES COAST GUARD And THE CENTRAL VERMONT RAILROAD Cordially invite you to be one of our guests at the Commissioning Ceremonies of THE ONLY COAST GUARD LOCOMOTIVE IN THE WORLD! Monday, July 2, 1979 Central Vermont Roundhouse New London, Conn. ≠Ceremonies Start 9AM.
CV kept this locomotive clean-it was washed often in St. Albans, VT and even though the CV only agreed to the color scheme for three months, it was repainted twice. It ended up on a postcard.
I'm sure there's never been anything like this in the Coast Guard, before or since. The CV and the CG got lots of positive feedback from it: "Get on the right track-take the Coast Guard!" It's runs were between New London and Brattleboro, VT, where the Coast Guard normally didn't get much exposure. I'm quoted in the paper as saying, "It should turn a lot of heads," and I guess it did. Articles on the engine appeared in the New London Day and the Springfield (MA) Sunday Union.
"Mac" Clark not only had given his permission for this project, he was a railroad enthusiast himself. One day he called me into his office and hinted that he'd like a ride in "his" locomotive. I arranged a ride from the Academy up to the Willimantic area for the both of us. I even had his two-star flag flying from the front of the locomotive for the trip (l still have that flag today). You should have seen the looks on the cadets' faces as we rolled through the lower Academy and they spotted the Admiral in civvies in the window of the locomotive. Yep they braced up and saluted! My wife (a great CG wife) followed us up in the car, and even shot some photos of the train going north along Rt. 32. RADM Clark had a great time doing this.
We had certificates made up for the engineers who drove the locomotive, and RADM Clark's was one of the signatures on them:
Honorary Commanding Officer, United States Coast Guard.
___ of the Central Vermont Railroad is hereby designated Honorary Commanding Officer in the United States Coast Guard. Your commission as Commanding Officer of the First Coast Guard railroad engine in the world is in effect from 2 July through 30 September 1979.
PHILLIP LARSON, General Manager, Central Vermont Railroad
M.E. CLARK, Rear Admiral, U. S. Coast Guard
Dated: July 1979 at New London, Ct.
When the official Coast Guard birthday came around on 4 August, the locomotive was scheduled to be on display at the Academy. But instead, it was on an actual "SAR (Search and Rescue) mission." Three locomotives and 14 freight cars had derailed near Springfield, MA, because a heavy rainstorm washed out a section of track, so when duty called the 4924 was pressed into service. How perfect!
Originally published in: The Cutter Newsletter 32, Spring 2011 isssue
The Newsletter of the Foundation for Coast Guard History, 28 Osprey Dr., Gales Ferry, CT 06335
A special thanks to an RMT customer and retired Coastie Ray O. Chatterton, USCG Retired, MK1 for the above story.