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New MRL "tribute" locomotive is ready for the rails

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Posted at 8:43 AM, Dec 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-24 10:45:33-05

MISSOULA — There have been a lot of expressions of support for frontline workers who are helping us get through the pandemic in Montana - but none larger than the tons of gratitude unveiled in Missoula on Wednesday, including the completed project and importance of the tribute from the men and women of Montana Rail Link.

Alphagraphics of Missoula took on the massive job to vinyl wrap a very special MRL locomotive at the company's shops. Using 1,600 square feet of colorful sheets, the locomotive was covered from "stem to stern" in a design honoring all the essential workers working in our hospitals and other services so critical right now.

MRL invited MTN News to see the finished project a multi-ton workhorse designed to honor some of the most challenging work being done in our Montana communities.

“If the pandemic did anything positive, it has elevated all of our appreciation for what the essential workers are. And it isn't just the doctors and nurses as well as the firemen and policemen," said Mike Halligan, executive director of the Phyllis Washington Foundation. "I mean it is the postal workers, the grocery clerks, and the custodians and everyone else who really every day has to sacrifice with what they do for all of us, and we want to appreciate all the effort that they do.”

“That's right, we have over 1200 employees right here at Montana Rail Link, who are essential to keeping the supply chain fluid. Everything that you buy at the grocery store, the sporting goods store. Making sure you have clean drinking water, all depends on railroad workers that work here, right here at Montana Rail Link," said Ross Lane, Montana Rail Link chief communications officer. "And we wanted with this locomotive to pay tribute to all those essential workers and include our employees. But also the doctors, nurses, janitorial staff, teachers. And the list goes on, who really are important to our society, to make sure we're functioning when this pandemic began to affect us all in March. We’ve really relied on essential workers to keep us going.”



Both of these locomotives are working engines, so you'll see them on the tracks hauling freight all across the state.

“These two locomotives, this 'essential workers' one right behind me, and then a 'thank you veterans' one which we released just a few weeks ago on Veteran's Day, are both working in regular freight service on our network between Billings, Montana and and Sandpoint, Idaho," said Lane.

And this show of support isn't just about the visual tribute. “We gave a couple of grants. One to the Warriors with Quiet Waters for $50,000 and one to the No Kid Hungry Program to feed those kids with the schools being closed, etc for $50,000. So it was a way to try to get a combination with the Foundation and what the what the railroad can do to say thank you to those essential workers," Halligan said.

The Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation is also pitching in behind the scenes, extending more than $300,000 in additional grant funds last month to help 96 Montana food banks, homeless shelters, United Way, and other relief agencies.