Lineside Legacy - October, 2003

Great Northern 2507

Freshly painted Great Northern P-2 Mountain No. 2507 waits at Pasco, Washington, for movement to its new display site at the former Spokane, Portland & Seattle Station at Wishram. Photo: Brian Fritz
0N JUNE 7, 2003, a Great Northern P-2 4-8-2 was once again on live rails, heading out of Pasco, Washington, on Burlington Northern & Santa Fe. Was it live? No, unfortunately, but the 2507, one of GN's celebrated Mountains, was on its way to a new home after an aborted restoration. After months of planning, the 80-year-old locomotive, sparkling in fresh paint, was towed dead by a BNSF diesel from Pasco to Wishram, where it is to be placed on display at a new railroad park.

No.2507 began life in the fall of 1923 at the Baldwin Locomotive Works, one of 28 engines in the new P-2 class purchased for fast passenger service. The P-2s weren't the first Mountains on the GN - in 1914 the road had purchased 15 class P-1 4-8-2s from Lima, but they ultimately proved unsuccessful as passenger power due to their small drivers. In contrast, the P-2's big 73" drivers, 210 p.s.i. boiler pressure and 29"x28" cylinders gave them the muscle to wheel passenger trains like GN's signature Empire Builder, introduced the year after they were built. The P-2s soon became renowned for their speed, reliability, and good looks. Interestingly, they appeared somewhat out of place on the GN, as they did not have Belpaire fireboxes like most of the road's other steam power. Besides the Builder, P-2s could be found pulling silk trains, the Fast Mail, Oriental Limited and, from time to time, the Glacier Park Limited. When diesels took the passenger runs, several engines, including 2507, were overhauled and held in reserve at Spokane.

At the close of the steam era, several GM steam locomotives were preserved, including one P-2 (No.2523) that the Great Northern gave to Willmar, Minnesota, in 1965 (see LINESIDE LEGACY, February 2002). No.2507, which was retired in December 1957, was not immediately scrapped, but kept in storage for many years in Minnesota. Then, in a twist of fate, it too wound up being preserved, but not as a GN engine.

The Spokane, Portland & Seattle, which was jointly owned by GN and the Northern Pacific, had promised the county of Klickitat, Washington, a steamer to display at Maryhill State Park, overlooking the Columbia River eight miles east of the SP&S division point of Wishram. The problem was, no SP&S steam locomotives were available to donate. The railroad had previously given the last two it owned, 2-8-2 No.539 and 4-8-4 No.700, to the communities of Vancouver, Washington, in 1957 and Portland, Oregon, in 1958. Several of the railroad's 900-series Challengers were sitting dead in Vancouver, but had already been sold to a scrap dealer and so weren't available. The solution was for the SP&S to purchase the 2507, a locomotive that had never turned a wheel for the railroad, from parent company Great Northern. Before its official donation to Klickitat County in September 1966, the 2507 was towed from Minnesota to Vancouver, where it was repainted and given full SP&S lettering to complete the masquerade. It was the only Mountain-type ever owned by the railroad.

For nearly three decades "SP&S 2507" sat silent at Maryhill, slowly rusting. From time to time it was painted by the SP&S Vancouver shop forces, and generally was kept in good cosmetic condition. Mechanically, it was still in good shape, and in the early 1990s a group of Seattle steam enthusiasts banded together to form the Northwest Railway & Locomotive Preservation Association, with the goal of restoring the engine to service.

The Mountain was leased to the group by Klickitat County, and was painted in October 1992, when the SP&S logo on its tender was replaced with the proper GN goat herald. Then on January 29, 1994, the 266-ton 4-8-2 was loaded onto a barge and moved east on the Columbia River to the Port of Pasco, where it was offloaded and prepared for restoration at an industrial complex near BN's Pasco yard. Unfortunately, due to a variety of factors the restoration plans fell through, and the NR&LPA was eventually dissolved. The 2507 was then leased to the Washington State Railroads Historical Society, which also wanted to restore and operate the 4-8-2, but little work was done and the engine continued to sit at Pasco virtually untouched for nearly a decade.

Seeing that No.2507 was not going to be restored, Klickitat County desired to bring it back to the area for display. It was decided early on in the project, however, that the engine would not return to Maryhill, as track realignments had made it impossible to place it back where it was before, so a new one-acre display site for the 4-8-2, adjacent to the BNSF depot in Wishram, was purchased by the County last year. Currently under construction is a 110 foot long overhead canopy and fence to protect the engine at the new site; the county is spending nearly $300,000.00 to ensure that it is well protected and properly displayed. It will be lit at night by floodlights, and displays will tell of its history. The BNSF was willing to help out with the project, and offered to donate the cost to move the 4-8-2 by rail back to Wishram.

First, however, a cosmetic restoration was in order, as years of outdoor exposure had left the locomotive looking shabby. Scott Lindsay's Steam Operations Corporation was hired to paint and refurbish 2507 while it was still sitting at Pasco, and also prepare it for its move. Subsequently, SOC overhauled and serviced 2507's brake system and also cleaned and prepared its bearings, crank pins and side rods for the 126-mile journey. (The main rods and eccentric rods were left off so the pistons would not be damaged during the trip). Although the locomotive had originally worn the green Glacier Park scheme, it was decided to restore 2507 to its all-black 1950s appearance to the tune of $70,000.00. A fresh coat of gloss black paint with new GN heralds and lettering, plus a mineral red cab roof was applied in Pasco late last year, and the results are truly stunning. In its current state 2507 looks just as it did when retired in 1957 (minus the soot and grime, of course).

On Monday, July 7, 2003, BNSF C44-9W No.4458 tied onto No.2507 for its final journey to Wishram. The trip was slow, as the train was restricted to 20 m.p.h. to prevent damage to the 48-2's bearings. Scott Lindsay and other employees from Steam Operations Corporation rode in the cab, and stopped often to inspect and lubricate the 2507. As testimony to their efforts, the move went off without a hitch.

With No.2507 at its new home, a dedication ceremony was planned for August. While some railfans may bemoan the fact that its once-planned restoration to operating condition will not happen, I applaud Klickitat County and the community of Wishram for their efforts to restore, preserve, and protect No.2507 for future generations. Cosmetic restoration and display in Wishram is certainly better that leaving the 4-8-2 rusting in Pasco. The overhead shelter, while a hindrance to photography, will keep the locomotive looking good for years to come. There is some room to expand, and rumor has it the display might include Great Northern caboose X-44, which is owned by the Klickitat County Historical Society and currently stored in Goldendnle, Washington, pending restoration. - THANKS To Brian Fritz

 

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