BN 6394 was originally built in May of 1966 as Great Northern SDP40 320 for use on the Empire Builder. It was one of six purchased numbered 320-325, all delivered in the simplified orange and green. Before the BN merger it was repainted Big Sky Blue.
Of the six GN SDP40's I saw all before the BN merger working out of Seattle, with the exception of the 320 which I found rather odd I would see the other 5 (on numerous occasions) but not the 320. I did see it more than 3 weeks after the BN merger as the GN 320 on 3-27-70 as power for Seattle-Portland BN passenger train #199 leaving King St Station.
And lucky for me as the next time I saw it on 5-24-70, the SDP40 was already renumbered BN 9850. It was leading train #32 at Monroe, WA heading east on the Empire Builder with units 9850/9749 (SDP40/F7B) both wearing ex-GN sky blue.
BN kept the SDP40's and SDP45's after the creation of Amtrak and they were soon in freight service. Here is a great photo of the BN 9850 leading a BN train at Minneapolis, MN in 1973.
In April of 1974.the SDP's were renumbered into a BN freight numbering scheme with the 9850 becoming BN 6394.
First time I saw the BN 6394 was on 5-21-74 at Interbay, WA (6645/6394/6441) F45/SDP40/SD45) with the 6645 and 6394 wearing BN green while the 6441 was still ex-GN orange and green.
My first photo of the 6394 was taken more than 4 years later at Interbay on 12-5-78.
Note BN had dropped the "P" from SDP40 on the sill stencil classing it as an SD 40 now.
I photographed it a couple more times on 3-1-81 at Auburn, WA after coming in off of Stampede Pass. I took these photos around 10:45 that Sunday morning.
The 6394 had been repainted and is classed as SD-40. The sill stencil shows it is assigned to Northtown. The power set consisted of 6394/8031/5712/8133 (SD40/SD40-2/U33C/SD40-2) and with a little research I have found more info on the train it led. The BN register book page from Easton, WA 3-1-81 shows train GA2 (loaded grain train) with the 6394 leading passing through westbound at 2:03 AM with the first cut, the power returning at 4:10 AM eastbound and westbound with the second cut at 5:01 AM. Common practice with loaded grain trains was to double the hill over Stampede Pass from Cle Elum to Lester as this train did.
A message received at Easton (given to the second cut westbound judging from the time of the message at 433 AM) informs the 6394 West to leave the entire train on the siding at East Auburn.
There are other photos of the 6394 and Trainpix has a few very nice ones, including this rear end roster:
That was the last time I would photograph the 6394 and it was retired in December of 1991 and sold to MK. It was scrapped in July of 1996.