The Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway, known as The Northwest's Own Railway, was formed in 1905 as a joint venture between the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railways to build a railroad connecting the cities of Spokane and Pasco, Washington with Portland, Oregon via the north bank of the Columbia River.
The SP&S would find itself stuck with retired equipment from its parent roads, and by the mid-1930s, the SP&S was finding it difficult to compete with the Union Pacific Railroad on the Oregon side of the river.
Finally, the GN and NP gave the SP&S some new locomotives of its own, in the form of six 4-6-6-4 Challengers for freight service and three 4-8-4 Northerns for passenger service. These locomotives were identical to locomotives then being delivered to Northern Pacific, except that the SP&S locomotives would burn oil instead of coal.
The three passenger locomotives were numbered 700-702. They were built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in June, 1938. Except for burning oil, they were identical to the Northern Pacific A-3 class of locomotives. SP&S referred to them as E-1's.
Here are some specifications for the SP&S #700:
|Builder||Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, PA|
|Class & Wheel Arrangement||E-1 4-8-4 Northern|
|Tractive Effort||69,800 pounds|
|Steam Pressure||260 pounds per square inch|
|Cylinder Diameter||28 inches|
|Cylinder Stroke||31 inches|
|Valve Diameter||14 inches|
|Valve Stroke||8 inches|
|Driving Wheel Diameter||77 inches|
|Overall Height||16 feet, 10 13/16 inches|
|Length of Engine & Tender||110 feet, 6 3/4 inches|
|Weight of Engine & Tender||879,700 pounds|
|Weight of Engine||485,820 pounds|
|Weight on Drivers||296,500 pounds|
|Weight of Tender (Loaded)||379,700 pounds|
|Water Capacity of Tender||22,000 gallons|
|Fuel Oil Capacity of Tender||6,000 gallons|
By 1955, the SP&S had completed dieselization and was ready to retire the last of its steam locomotives. The SP&S would make sure that steam would go out in style, though. On May 20, 1956, SP&S sponsored the Farewell to Steam Excursion, a 21-car round trip between Portland, Oregon and Wishram, Washington behind the SP&S's steam locomotive #700. 1,400 passenger rode behind #700 for what everyone believed would be the last time.
After the excursion, #700 joined the rest of SP&S's steam locomotives in a scrap line. The end seemed certain, until the Union Pacific offered the City of Portland a retired steam locomotive of its own to display in a park: 4-6-2 Pacific #3203, originally built by Baldwin in 1905 as the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company #197.
Not to be outdone by its competitor, the SP&S decided to donate a newer and larger locomotive to the City of Portland: #700. The locomotive was donated to the city on January 13, 1958, and would be the only SP&S or NP E-1 Northern to survive. The two locomotives were placed on display in Oaks Park that year, and were soon joined by another 4-8-4: Southern Pacific #4449.
SP #4449, SP&S #700 & UP #3203 at Oaks Park during 1964 flood (Friends of SP 4449)
Only one other SP&S steam locomotive would escape the scrap line. O-3 Class 2-8-2 Mikado #539, built by the Brooks Locomotive Works as Northern Pacific 1762 in September, 1917 and transferred to SP&S in August, 1944, was donated to the City of Vancouver, Washington on October 4, 1957. In June 1997, it was moved to Battle Ground, Washington for restoration, and in 2007 went to the Grand Canyon Railway.
In an interesting twist, the SP&S promised a steam locomotive to Klickitat County, Washington to be placed in Maryhill State Park, only to have already scrapped all of its own remaining steam locomotives. SP&S purchased retired Great Northern P-2 Class 4-8-2 Mountain #2507, repainted it in SP&S colors, and donated the "SP&S" locomotive. The SP&S never actually operated any 4-8-2 Mountain-type locomotives. The locomotive was eventually repainted back into Great Northern colors, and is now on display in Wishram, Washington, ironically right next to the former SP&S main line.
The Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway itself disappeared in 1970 as it merged into the Burlington Northern Railroad, now Burlington Northern Santa Fe, or BNSF.
The three locomotives in Oaks Park remained there behind a chain-link fence for a number of years. SP #4449 was the first to be removed. It would pull the American Freedom Train in 1975-76.
After #4449's restoration, 15-year-old Chris McLarney founded the Pacific Railroad Preservation Association in 1977 to restore #700. The locomotive returned to operation in 1990.
The third locomotive, UP #3203, has also been removed from Oaks Park to be restored as OR&N #197.
Since its restoration, #700 has been in operation throughout the Pacific Northwest, operating around the Portland area and the Willamette Valley, returning to its own route on the north bank of the Columbia River, and even traveling as far as Montana, where it never visited in its years of regular service for the SP&S.
On January 25, 2006, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the third largest and second most powerful operating steam locomotive in the world.
The year 2006 was special, as it marked 50 years since everyone said farewell to #700, thinking she was doomed to be scrapped, and yet she has been resurrected; she still pulls passengers long after the diesels that replaced her had themselves been replaced and retired. An excursion was in order.
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