Something I frequently talk about is my ongoing hunt for the IC Deathstars, where I always say that "you never know when they're going to disappear one day." It's an unfortunate truth, in that everything does come to an end eventually and we won't be able to catch everything. One hundred years ago, the thought of steam locomotives going away would be strange to most folks, yet within three decades, almost the entire country was dieselized and steam was a rarity. The first and second generation EMDs are a dying breed, and now catching a pair of SD40s on a road freight is rare. The oldest diesels are entirely gone from revenue service, and even newer engines have disappeared completely.
Now, we are down another unique class. As of May 8th, 2021, the CN/Illinois Central's Blue Devils are retired. Their numbers dwindled down to a mere seven, with some lost to CN noodle paints and the Dash 8 purge last year. Now, though, six of the seven blue devils are listed as retired on CN's roster. Only 2466 wasn't listed, but the most recent sightings showed in storage in Canada, essentially marking it as dead now too.
With only seven to catch, spotting them was something I didn't expect to do. I only ever saw three of them before they were all retired.
Nicknamed for their distinctive Conrail-blue paint and the "red eyes" of the marker lights, the blue devils were not originally for CN or IC. Built in 1994, Conrail ordered 60 C40-8Ws for joint-leasing with the General Electric Locomotive Management Services, aka LMS. They were built to Conrail specs, painted Conrail blue, and shipped out to anyone who wished to lease them. Conrail and CN would then lease 40 of the units (LMS 700-739), swapping them every six months, on a long term lease that would expire in 2012. Of course, in 1999, Conrail was split in half between Norfolk Southern and CSX and the lease was terminated. Some of the 40 units left in leasing service (the 20 not split between CR/CN were pulled into Conrails standard fleet) ended up on NS, others in CSX, and the remainder... CN/IC.
LMS 728-739 were renumbered to 2455-2466 and lettered for IC with large numbers in an IC font replacing the original LMS numbers. Something that's never been quite clear was why they were rostered under IC, but the most likely explanation would be due to the acquisition of the IC by CN - perhaps transferring the assets to the Canadian company would have been too much of a hassle, making it easier to give them to their new subsidiary company instead. It begs the question as to whether they would've ended up in deathstar like the ICs Dash 9 order was meant to, but the answer is likely no - but we don't really know the answer to that.
With seven left to retire, where are the other five?
IC2455 was scrapped 09/2020; 2458 was repainted to CN noodle in 2015 and hasn't been seen since 2019, suggesting scrapping; IC2461 was repainted either in late 2015 or early 2016 but appears to be in service still; IC2464 was wrecked and destroyed on 1/6/2012 in Suman, IN; and finally, IC2465 was repainted in 2013 and retired on 5/7/2021 along with the remaining blues.
IC2456, IC2457, IC2459, IC2460, IC2462, and IC2463 are all confirmed to be retired. Interestingly, IC2455 was still listed on the active roster until May 8th. IC2455 can be seen in the Dash 8 Purge of late 2020 on the far right of the image below.
The only mystery is in regards to 2466. At the time of writing this, 2466 does not appear on the list of retired locomotives, nor does it exist in the storage list, nor has it been reported in active service since 4/18/2021 (according to HeritageUnits.com [the May 9th report suggests storage, but the answer isn't clear yet]). Realistically, though, the likelihood of just one blue devil continuing in service is so unlikely it's barely worth considering. The roster information I have is a few weeks old now, so it's a very safe bet that 2466 joins its 11 sisters and has been retired permanently. I spotted 2466 leading A407 on a freezing winter afternoon, but as I had to return to work and couldn't get off early, I was only able to get a single photo from the Olympian bridge, and with the fence in the way, it didn't lend itself to an easy shot.
2457 appeared on my radar by complete accident, heading up A408 with a CN C40-8M at Bradley Avenue while A407, led by two IC SD70s, 1 CNIC SD70, and a GP38-2W, rolled in beside it.
So with six of the seven blue devils confirmed dead, and the seventh likely joining it, it appears that my warning phrase has unfortunately come true. You never know when they're going to disappear, and before you know it, you'll never see them again. My last sighting of a blue devil was in the evening of April 3rd, 2021, while I was testing my new camera out. Golden light shined on the young motor, highlighting the aging of the Conrail-blue locomotive.
Unfortunately, that would be my last sighting. I'm glad I was able to see at least a couple in their last months, though I wish I could've had more time to spot them and get more photos. It's a shame, but it's the way things go. One day there will be a post like this for the IC Deathstars, too. I'm not even going to bring up the poor barns because we've all known they've been on the chopping block for years now.
I suppose this serves as a reminder: shoot things now or you may end up kicking yourself when you no longer can. Goodbye to the blue devils.
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