Friday, May 2, 2014

Farewell is not Forever - Part 2: History of the SP&S #700

IMG_2113 SP&S #700
Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700 at Oaks Park.

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.

IMG_2116 SP&S #700 Herald
Spokane, Portland & Seattle herald on #700’s tender.

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.

IMG_2108 SP&S #700
Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700 at Oaks Park.

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.

IMG_2112 SP&S #700
Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700 at Oaks Park.

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.

IMG_2115 SP&S #700
Engineer looking down from the cab of SP&S #700.

Here are some specifications for the SP&S #700:

Builder Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, PA
Builder Number 62171
Class & Wheel Arrangement E-1 4-8-4 Northern
Delivered June 1938
Horsepower 5,000+
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

IMG_2114 SP&S #700 Builders Plate
Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700’s builder’s plate.

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.

IMG_2119 SP&S #700
Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700 at Oaks Park.

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.

OWRN 197 August 2002
OR&N #197 in the Brooklyn Roundhouse in August 2002.

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 4449-2 June 7 1997
SP #4449 in Wishram, Washington on June 7, 1997.

Historical Photo:
SP #4449, SP&S #700 & UP #3203 at Oaks Park during 1964 flood (Friends of SP 4449)

IMG_2136 SP&S #700
Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700 at Oaks Park.

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.

IMG_2137 SP&S #700
Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700 at Oaks Park.

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.

IMG_2138 SP&S #700
Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700 at Oaks Park.

The Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway itself disappeared in 1970 as it merged into the Burlington Northern Railroad, now Burlington Northern Santa Fe, or BNSF.

IMG_2139 SP&S #700
Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700 at Oaks Park.

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.

IMG_2142 SP&S #700 Tender
Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700’s tender at Oaks Park.

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.

IMG_2154 PRPA Sign
Sign with the Pacific Railroad Preservation Association’s logo.

The third locomotive, UP #3203, has also been removed from Oaks Park to be restored as OR&N #197.

IMG_2153 SP&S #700
Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700 at Oaks Park.

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.

IMG_2140 SP&S #700 National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places plaque.

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.

IMG_2152 SP&S #700
Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700 at Oaks Park.

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.

IMG_2177 SP&S #700
Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700 at Oaks Park.

Continue to History of the Route

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