All about the community of model railroading and rail enthusiasm


Watco to roll out locomotive honoring Pittsburg State University

October 10, 2012 / Updated July 25, 2023

Short Line Railroads

From staff reports

Watco Companies, LLC is bucking the recent trend by railroads to honor their predecessor roads by painting locomotives in heritage schemes.

WAMX No. 3834 awaits new paint at Watco’s Coffeyville, KS shops. The locomotive is being painted red and gold to honor Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS. – Courtesy Watco Companies

In the last few years, Class Is Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern have painted locomotives to recognize roads that they absorbed. Norfolk Southern honored its predecessors for its 30th anniversary in 2012 by painting 20 new locomotives in commemorative schemes.

At Watco, which operates 23 short lines, painting its locomotives to honor an educational institution in a town that the company services is becoming a routine public relations move much closer to home.

Watco plans to roll out a GP38 painted in Pittsburg State University’s red and gold scheme in time for the Kansas school’s homecoming football game Oct. 20. WAMX No. 3834 will be the fourth locomotive that Watco has painted to recognize either a university or high school.

The unit is expected to arrive in Pittsburg the day before PSU’s game against Missouri Western.

“I don’t know of any other railroads out there that honor schools like we do,” Watco spokeswoman Tracie VanBecelaere said.

In summer 2011, Watco unveiled a blue and white SD40-2 in the colors of Cherryvale High School. The company also has painted engines to honor Boise State University and the University of Alabama.

Watco’s latest entry in its unofficial textbook scheme is a former Bangor & Aroostoock Geep that’s being painted at Watco’s Coffeyville, KS, shops. The “split” Pittsburg State Gorilla logo will go on the nose, sides and rear.

VanBecelaere said the locomotive doesn’t just honor the school’s success on the football field but also recognizes what the university means to the city and to Watco. Last year, PSU won the Division II national championship, and this year the Gorillas are ranked No. 1.

“We have a close association with PSU,” she said. “Their football players will stick around in the off season and work for Watco, doing summer jobs like mowing and maintaining properties.”

In summer 2011, Watco’s South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad painted an SD40-2 in Cherryvale High School’s colors. SKOL’s headquarters is in Cherryvale, KS. – Courtesy Watco Companies

Special paint, like that used on the Cherryvale locomotive, is being applied to prevent permanent damage from graffiti. VanBecelaere said the paint will allow graffiti to be easily removed with a spray solution.

When finished, No. 3834 will operate on the South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad in and around Pittsburg on manifest trains.

Current Issue: September/October 2023


Bright, shiny freight cars are showing in greater numbers on the North American rail network. New orders and deliveries increased in 2022 following a decline beginning in 2019 that the pandemic worsened in 2020 and 2021. According to a report from the Railway Supply Institute's American Railway Car Institute Committee, new freight car orders last year were significantly greater than the combined total of 2020 and 2021. Deliveries increased nearly as much.

But car builders are not out of the woods yet, as the first half of 2023 saw some ups and downs.


Too much of a good thing can be hazardous to model railroad operations. Adding more cars to a layout can place more pressure on yards and industries when running the railroad like the real thing. Three veteran operators share their thoughts about how to avoid logjams in yards, sidings and at industries. 


Computer-based applications that complement DCC are driving the new frontier of model rail road operations.


The Sunset Limited ranks as Amtrak's worst train in on-time performance, prompting a Surface Transportation Board investigation. The Southern Pacific's Coast Daylight, with its brilliant colors, was among the most beautiful trains during the golden age of passenger rail. A BNSF test locomotive that set the stage for future developments in alternative energy motive power technology arrives at an Oklahoma railroad museum.