Located on the outskirts of the small community of Pixley, one of the J.D. Heiskell & Co. grain facilities stands tall against the sky on the flat floor of the Central Valley. As one drives by this specific mill on Highway 99 (as I was when I pulled off onto the shoulder for this shot), it's not hard to miss a pair of blue switchers that stand out against the grey silos and grain cars. Despite their subtle appearance as they shuttle cars to and fro along the mill's mile or so of track, the history of these two switchers dates back many years as it something worth mentioning.
J.D. Heiskell & Co. (JDHX) 1886, left, is a 1750 horsepower, GP9 built by EMD in April of 1958 for the Great Northern Railway. During its 12 years of service with the railroad as GN 729, the unit wore notable company paint schemes including the "Empire Builder" and "Big Sky Blue." Following the formation of the Burlington Northern Railroad in March of 1970, the unit was renumbered to BN 1802. Serving on the BN for more than 20 years, the unit was then renumbered to 1607 following the merger of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway in September of 1995. The unit would serve the BNSF five years before being retired in November of 2000 and sold off to the Coast Engine & Equipment Co. It was sold to J.D. Heiskell & Co. in March of 2003 and renumbered to 1886 but would still hold onto its BNSF nose numberboards, 1607, for a few more years before they would finally be removed. The earliest photos of it at its current facility date back to 2004. With 58 years of service under it belt, it's not too far fetch to wonder if this unit's day's are number...particularly with the main switcher at this facility working hard in the background. For J.D. Heiskell & Co. paint scheme wise, the locomotive wears a commemorative 125 years of service patch on its side marking the 125th Anniversary of the company in 2011.
Working a cut of cars in the background with an engine compartment door open is the WIRX 1886. An SD9 built by EMD in 1955, the unit first saw service for the Central of Georgia Railway as unit No.202. Following its service for the CG, it would then see service for the Southern Railway renumbered to No.198. As the years wore on, the unit eventually came into the hands of the Norfolk Southern Railway where it was rebuilt to an SD9M in the company's Altoona, Pennsylvania shops and renumbered to No.58. After its service with the NS, the unit was sold off and has little history known of its whereabouts until 2008. Skipping ahead to March of 2008, the unit found itself on the GSANPX 31 bound for Pixley and its current service with the J.D. Heiskell & Co. company at their Pixley facility with the reporting marks of WRIX 1886. Upon it's arrival at Pixley, the unit has continued to carry these reporting marks likely so as not to confuse the tracing system on computers with two JDHX locomotives in the system at Pixley.
A sharp eye will notice both units wear the number 1886 - identically numbered by the company as this was the year J.D. Heiskell & Co. was founded.