Will The 328 Roll Again?

Northern Pacific Class S-10 4-6-0 328 rests inside the pole barn at the Minnesota Transportation Museum’s Jackson Street roundhouse sans headlight on Saturday, August 25th, 2012. Her tender was parked out back. Photo by the author.


Restored to operation by the Minnesota Transportation Museum between 1976-1981 after being on display in the city of Stillwater since around 1950 thanks to the intervention of MTM predecessor Minnesota Railfans Association, the little NP ten-wheeler has roamed everywhere from the St. Croix River valley to southern Minnesota and many more places.   Her last regular service was on the MTM’s Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway from 1992 to 1999.   I first saw her in action there in 1998 during “Steamfest In The Valley” which saw two Soo Line steamers pay a visit: 2-8-2 1003 and 4-6-2 2719.   The grand finale: a steam triple header using all three engines!  (The year before 1003 had visited and doubleheaded with 328 too.)  Taken out of service for overhaul, the 328 has fallen into the ranks of many a steam locomotive waiting in limbo to return to steam.

Will the 328 roll again?   I’m afraid your guess is as good as mine.   Officially, the MTM says she is still under restoration; rumor mills have been rife that it will only be cosmetic due to costs, a crying shame if true.

It was still good to see her again, though.

Note: for more information about the NP 328, go here:     http://www.mtmuseum.org/jsr/roster/np328.php


The BNSF … And The Great Northern!

An eastbound BNSF intermodal with a pair of GE’s (including one in the 1996 “BNSF” warbonnet variant) waits for a clear signal at Jackson Street while nearby Great Northern SD45 400 “Hustle Muscle” re-enters the grounds of the Minnesota Transportation Museum’s Jackson Street roundhouse with the last caboose ride of the day. Photo by the author.


While she has received some minor modifications since she first rolled off the EMD assembly line in 1966, Great Northern SD45 400 remains a vibrant reminder of the glory days of the railway rail baron James J. Hill’s name forever will be linked with.   Owned by the Great Northern Railway Historical society, the brawny unit decked out in Omaha orange and green which sports the name “Hustle Muscle” resided for years at the railway museum in Duluth before moving south in December of 2000 to home turf at the Minnesota Transportation Museum’s Jackson Street roundhouse.

This summer, the Hustle Muscle has been used to power the caboose rides offered on Saturdays at Jackson Street which normally utilize Anderson Windows SW-1 3110 as the power to tote Soo Line caboose 31.   It was on just such a hop the above vista was captured by me.   What a sight to see in this ultra-modern railroad day and age!   Thank God for historic preservation, too; without it, such scenes never could be except in imagination.

Note: for more information on the GN 400, click here: http://www.mtmuseum.org/jsr/roster/gn400.php

UP Steam At Last!

The Union Pacific’s purchase of the Chicago and North Western in 1995 saddened me deeply, but I knew that cloud had a silver lining: the UP’s steam program!   Surely they would send either their 4-8-4 Northern number 844 or their 4-6-6-4 Challenger 3985 up to Minneapolis/St. Paul?   For years I waited with nothing happening on that front.   Then in 2002 the 3985 arrived in South Saint Paul … but I couldn’t make it.   Fast forward to 2008:  on the memorable date of September 26th, a remarkably sunny, warm (and breezy) Friday in the early fall, I caught Union Pacific’s 4-6-6-4 Challenger-class steam engine number 3985 as it passed through Rosemount, MN on its way to Saint Paul, MN.

UP 3985 passes railfans and railroaders gathered by the Progressive Rail depot in Rosemount, MN.  Photo by the author.


UP 3985 chugs north through Rosemount beckoned on by a green signal on the UP’s “Spine Line.” Photo by the author.


UP open platform obs Saint Louis brings up the markers on the UP steam train to Saint Paul passing through Rosemount, MN, on September 26th, 2008. Photo by the author.


At last I had caught a UP steam train running on track not only once run by the CNW, but the Rock Island/Milwaukee Road before that (this stretch of “Spine Line” was joint track for the RI/MILW from Rosemount to the junction at Comus, MN).

I’ve always wondered why the 3985 was emitting such a clean exhaust that day.   Had somebody mixed in a little diesel fuel oil with the steam fuel oil?  (Hey, a guy who worked for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy once told me they did just that for some of their steam fan trips …)

The 261 On A Sunday Evening

Photo by the author.


Once upon a time on a Sunday evening in June, 2008, the uncompleted Highway 12 bypass in Long Lake lay devoid of cars beneath the warm sun as it waited to be tied off at both ends thanks to unstable soil at its western end that dictated a “land bridge” solution money was slow in coming for.

The BNSF had its new alignment of its Wayzata subdivision up and running long before now, though, and darn did the uncompleted bypass make a great place to railfan from, especially now, with North Star Rail’s Alco Class S-3 4-8-4 Milwaukee Road 261 approaching with the westbound BNSF Employee Appreciation Special to Howard Lake and return.

After a westbound freight passed, here she came, beautiful and dramatic as ever.  Out of the photos I took of her that evening, this one is my favorite.  I especially like how I got her smoke plume, one of the westbound signals, and  a bird flying right overhead, all captured in decent light.

Viva the Milwaukee Road 261!   I look forward to taking more such pictures of her when she returns to the rails from her overhaul.

Canadian Pacific’s Milwaukee Road Heritage Unit

Photo by the author.


Awhile back, I read that Canadian Pacific so far had two diesels on the roster painted for two of the railroads CP has purchased over the years: the Delaware & Hudson and the Toronto, Hamilton, and Buffalo.   It seems they already have one for the Milwaukee Road, MP15 number 1538.   However, the 1538’s paint job is quite by chance and not by design!

The reason stems from the Soo Line’s purchase of the Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Paul, and Pacific in 1985 and its subsequent merger a year later.   As the Soo needed to assume about 383 million dollars in Milwaukee Road debt as part of the deal, repainting the Milwaukee’s diesel fleet into the Soo’s red and white paint scheme was hardly affordable.  However, power identification problems soon plagued the Soo due to duplicate road numbers on their engines and ex-Milwaukee ones.   The answer was to put black paint over the “Milwaukee Road” lettering on the engines long hoods and remove the Milwaukee Emblems from beneath the cab windows and paint that area black as well.   Add a new number and the process of turning a pristine Milwaukee Road engine into a Soo Line “bandit” was complete.  Eventually, many of these units wound up on the roster of the Canadian Pacific after it bought the Soo Line in 1990.   Some of these have now been painted in full CP colors.   A few, however, remain in “bandit” colors to this day; one such unit being the 1538.

The 1538’s black patches, however, have not withstood the test of time well.  And by an incredible stroke of luck, the “Milwaukee Road” lettering on one side of its long hood is seeing the light of day again looking slightly faded by still %100 legible.

So that is how the Canadian Pacific has an accidental “heritage unit” on its roster.  Hopefully it will one day wind up in a museum or with the Milwaukee Road Historical Association and get a fresh coat of Milwaukee Road paint.