Friday, July 27, 2012

Steamy Iron Horse Roundup For July 2011

Iowa Interstate's Chinese manufactured 'QJ' 2-10-2 #6988 is seen passing the former Rock Island Iowa City, IA depot on the return leg of its round trip excursion between Cedar Rapids, IA and Rock Island, IL on June 19th, 2012. Erik Rasmussen photo
IOWA- For the second year in a row, the Hawkeye state and regional Iowa Interstate played host to a large gathering of rail enthusiasts and historians with their 2012 convention in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Like last year's Trainfest in Rock Island, IL, this year's NRHS convention featured steam and diesel powered rare mileage excursions on former Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific and Milwaukee Road lines that only see freight traffic these days.

In addition to a day out at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion at Mt Pleasant, IA where attendees got to see restored trolleys, interurbans and steam as well as vintage steam powered tractors and farm machinery, the convention featured a steam powered excursion between Cedar Rapids and Rock Island, IL with IAIS Chinese QJ #6988 doing the honors.

Cedar Rapids and Iowa City MP15DC #122 seen powering an excursinon on the original interurban line between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City at Cou Lake, IA on June 22nd. FJ Grizel photo.

Attendees also got to ride behind rare mileage excursions over Dan Sabin's Iowa Interstate and former interurban Cedar Rapids and Iowa City- also known as the CRANDIC and owned by Alliant Energy [NYSE- LNT]. In addition to Iowa Interstate's Chinese made QJ, excursions were also powered by F40PH's from Iowa Northern's Hawkeye Express passenger trains that shuttle football fans to and from University of Iowa home football games and some of CRANDIC's yellow and grey EMD endcab switchers.

Interestingly, a few days before the NRHS excursions, the Iowa Interstate operated a series of trips between West Liberty, IA and Durant, IA to benefit those towns' respective fire departments.

The 2013 NRHS convention is scheduled to take place in September 2013 in Anchorage, AK.

Alaska Railroad's former Army 2-8-0 steam locomotive seen returning home from the lower 48 in January at Anchorage, AK. Michael Dinneen- Alaska Business Journal
ALASKA- Speaking of Alaska, the restoration of the Alaska railroad's last steam locomotive got a huge assist thanks to a $350,000 grant.

The Rasmuson Foundation announced the grant to the newly-formed non profit Engine 557 Restoration Company in early July. This is the first substantial donation that went towards the full restoration of Alaska Railroad #557. The unit last saw service in the early 1960s running shuttle trains to the Alaska state Fair before being sold to a scrap dealer in Washington State. However, instead of cutting up the former Army steamer, the scrap dealer took a shine to the Baldwin and displayed it in front of his business. As it turned out, the cool and relatively dry climate of east-central Washington State was almost ideal for preserving a steam locomotive.
Restoration is currently estimated to cost between $600,000 and $700,000. Major costs include initial tooling, asbestos removal and abatement, replacing galvanized steel cladding, new insulation, boiler and tubing replacement and repair, gear inspection and repair, painting and positive train control electronics.

In order to establish a funding mechanism, project supporters recently turned to The Alaska Community Foundation (ACF), which oversees and has helped establish nearly 300 funds and endowments that support philanthropic endeavors that benefit Alaskans. ACF agreed to establish and administer a new fund to accept donations, while the Restoration Company will coordinate the project, including fund-raising, hiring subcontractors, recruiting volunteers and overseeing the restoration work.
While the narrow gauge White Pass & Yukon continues to operate a pair of steam locomotives out of Skagway, Alaska #557 would be the first operating standard gauge steam engine in the Last Frontier on nearly 50 years. While one time roster-mate #556 remains on static display in an Anchorage park, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum has a sister locomotive to Alaska #557 & #556- former US Army #610, which was one of the last American steam locomotives made for an American customer.

Soo Line 2-8-2 #1003 seen crossing the Rock River in Edgerton, WI in August 2000 on the Wisconsin Southern. Barry Moore photo.

WISCONSIN- Reports of Soo Line 1003's demise are apparently premature, as the 1913-built Baldwin underwent a series of test-firings in May. The locomotive last operated pulling a Santa Train in November 2010 before her mandatory 15 year FRA boiler inspection.

After being taken out of service, the venerable ALCo steamer was kept on the grounds of the Wisconsin Auto Museum in Hartford, WI. Returning #1003 back to service carried an estimated pricetag of around $400,000, although some of these costs were reportedly picked up by Wisconsin Southern President and CEO Bill Gardner. When in operation, the Soo Line #1003 had operated almost exclusively on the Wisconsin and Southern.

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