Dirtiest/Cleanest Diesels?

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Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
Which North American Class I railroads have the dirtiest and the cleanest diesels? I thought about this the other day when a friend marveled at seeing a clean BNSF diesel.

I lived in Chicagoland from 1987-91. The only time I saw a dirty AT&SF unit was one winter when diesels leading freights arriving from the West were not being washed due to extreme, sub-zero (F) cold. The only clean BNSF units I now see are brand new ones that have not had time to fade, peel, or accumulate road grime.

The UP used to field clean, shiny diesels; but I have noticed many dirty and faded units beginning to show up in photos posted by members in the Regional forums. Most of the NS diesels I see passing through town are shiny and clean, possibly a carry-over of the proud tradition of the old Southern Railway. CSX units can vary, although most I have seen look good.

What have others observed?


New Member
I've always thought the newer BNSF engines look nice, like any of the ES44AC/DC's. The Dash-9's are starting to show their age now. Especially any old ATSF units. I've always thought the ex-BN SD70's look better than any ATSF Dash-9's.

I've always kind of been under the impression that eastern railroads units are cleaner than western units. I've also noticed that CN's units are generally cleaner than CP's.


I know UP's diesels started looking grungier after they took over the SP routes (and tunnels). The soot and overall dirt is not conducive to keeping engines clean. Add to that, the water shortage in the West, and you have reason for dirt. I know if I were thirsty, and had no water, but the railroad was using hundreds of gallons to wash stuff that works just fine when dirty, how I would feel.

Royal Hudson 2850

The Rail Hunter
It depends if locomotives spend a lot of time in tunnels and coal service will determine how dirty they get. Here in British Columbia we have both.

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