Featured image: Antonov Airlines

6/09/1994: The Day the Skies Carried a Locomotive

DALLAS — Today, in 1994, Irish Rail achieved a logistical feat for the books, when a General Motors Class 201, 109-tonne diesel locomotive was delivered by air from London, ON (YXU), to Dublin (DUB), Ireland, a feat almost unheard of in the railway industry.

This delivery was accomplished using the Antonov An-124-100 Ruslan, registration UR-82066, designed by Antonov ASTC in Kyiv, Ukraine, and operated by Antonov Airlines (ADB). The type is a very large cargo aircraft with a payload capacity of up to 150 tons and is intended for long-range delivery and airdropping of heavy and oversized cargo, including machinery, equipment, and troops.

The Irish Rail locomotive, which had been manufactured in Electro-Motive's London, Ontario, plant, took to the skies in what was, at the time, the heaviest load ever transported by air, becoming "a record flight when the 3200 hp locomotive crossed the Atlantic by air." According to ADB, "the flight took 12 hours with technical stops in Montreal, Gander, and Reykjavik for refueling."

During the operation ADB would "set another Guinness World Record for transporting the heaviest cargo (plus equipment) of 146 tons."

A Record Cargo Flight

While the initial locomotive made its aerial entrance, the remaining units of the Class 201 fleet took a more conventional route, arriving in Ireland by boat. This method, though less spectacular, was practical and cost-effective for the bulk of the deliveries.

The delivery of the GM Class 201 locomotive by an Antonov An-124 remains a fascinating chapter in the history of transportation, illustrating the lengths to which companies will go to achieve their operational goals and the incredible capabilities of modern cargo aircraft.

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