AE&FRE #5 is a 45-ton diesel-electric industrial locomotive built by General Electric in 1946. It is one of two pieces of railroad equipment in the Museum’s collection that are original to this line (the other is AE&FRE #304).
Upon the conversion of passenger service to busses after March 31st 1935, most of the railroad was scrapped. The 3.5 miles of track between the Illinois Central railroad interchange at Coleman and the Northern Illinois Hospital and Asylum for the Insane (located along Route 31 in Elgin) was kept in service to provide the hospital’s boiler plant with coal from mines located in southern Illinois.
At first a pair of electric freight locomotives (#23 and #49) were retained for use in coal delivery. However, by the mid -1940s, the electric locomotives were worn out and due for retirement. AE&FRE #5 was purchased new from General Electric to replace the electric locomotives. #5 was delivered in primer grey paint scheme and was later repainted into its familiar orange and black scheme by the then-owner of the railroad, Bob DeYoung. With the arrival of #5, the railroad was effectively "dieselized" and the overhead trolley lines were removed. They would later be reinstalled by volunteers of RELIC (the predecessor of the Fox River Trolley Museum) in the early 1960s.
In the early 1970s, under pressure from the newly created Environmental Protection Agency, the hospital switched from coal to natural gas. The last coal delivery was in 1973 and the railroad had lost its only customer. Bob DeYoung sold #5 to the Chicago Sand & Gravel Company, located in Spaulding, IL on east side of the Fox River, where it worked until the company switched to trucks in 2000. The company donated the locomotive to the Museum and #5 returned to her home rails in 2001.
As diesel-electric locomotives began to replace steam locomotives in the 1920s and 1930s, a dispute emerged between the railroads and railroad unions over the size of the crew needed to run this new type of locomotive. The railroads argued that the diesel-electric locomotives should be operated by an engineer alone. While the unions (in the interest of protecting jobs) argued that an engineer and a fireman should be required. The result was the “90,000 Pound Rule”: an agreement where any locomotive in railroad service weighing over 90,000 pounds (45 tons) would require a two man crew to operate. Any locomotive in railroad service weighing less (44 tons or lower) could be operated by an engineer alone. This agreement lead to the popularity of 44-ton locomotives with railroads.
However industrial-service locomotives, such as #5, were marketed directly to private companies and were intended to be run by company employees—not railroad crews. Since these locomotives were owned and operated by private businesses they were exempt from the “90,000 pound rule.” Such locomotives could be built to any size desired by the customer. Industrial locomotives are rated by their tonnage. Typically sizes for industrial locomotives range from 23-tons up to 70-tons or more. The 45-ton locomotives became very popular with private industries.