Lineside Legacy - August 1999

Jackson Street Roundhouse

0N MAY 1, 1999, I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of the Minnesota Transportation Museum's Jackson Street Roundhouse Museum in St. Paul, Minnesota. The new facility is the result of ten years of effort by MTM volunteers to establish a permanent, working museum within the Twin Cities area where visitors can learn about Minnesota's railroad history and watch equipment being restored. It also provides a secure home for the MTM's extensive collection of locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars and trolleys.

The Jackson Street Roundhouse was constructed in 1907 by the Great Northern Railway, replacing a structure built in 1882. The site has been used to maintain steam locomotives since 1862, when the Minnesota & Pacific Railroad built a servicing facility there, the first in the state. Subsequent owners included the St. Paul & Pacific and the St. Paul, Minneapolis, & Manitoba. During this century, the Great Northern Railroad utilized the facilities at Jackson Street for maintaining their passenger locomotives, steam and diesel, which were used on name trains such as the Empire Builder.

In 1959 the GN abandoned and sold the roundhouse for non-rail use; removing the turntable and leveling most of the remaining structures in the process. Subsequent owners modified the structure, the turntable pit was filled in and a garage was added over the turntable site. Even so, most of what was built in 1907 has survived intact, including several walls from the 1882 roundhouse. At the present time the MTM has completed Phase 1 of the roundhouse restoration and has opened five stalls, Nos.21-25, to the public. These stalls were elevated by the Great Northern for diesel locomotive servicing, and the railroad moved the smoke jacks, which are still in place, to accommodate Funits. The remaining stalls of the roundhouse will be restored after the garage addition is demolished and new replica doors have been installed. The garage is scheduled to come down starting in September 1999. The MTM has also been fortunate to acquire the turntable from the Great Northern's Minneapolis Junction roundhouse, but it is larger than the one formerly at Jackson Street, and the museum will have to dig a larger pit and pour a new pit ring to accommodate it.

Right now the first items visitors see when they arrive at Jackson Street are the railway displays near the parking lot, which consist of restored Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic (Soo Line) baggage-mail-express car No.101, a Rock Island commuter coach and the former Northern Pacific depot from Rutledge, Minnesota. Eventually a short train ride will be offered that will depart from the tiny station and traverse the former ice house track behind the powerhouse, which stands nearby. It was built during the 1940s to provide steam and compressed air to the shop complex, and plans call for it to be re-used as a museum office, store or possibly a theater.

Entering the roundhouse, visitors encounter railroad displays centered around the restored diesel bays and Northern Pacific wood caboose No. 1631. Artifacts from the NP, GN and Soo Line are prominent, as are photos of the area as it existed years ago. An interesting exhibit is an 1879 wood coach from the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba, which is currently undergoing repair and restoration.

Out back, near the MTM's enginehouse, visitors can view much of the rolling stock collection which includes the former Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern private car Gopher, Northern Pacific Russell Plow No.30, and passenger equipment from the NP, GN, Rock Island, Chivago & North Western and Milwaukee Road. Many of the MTM's historic buses and vintage streetcars are stored on the property as well.

Not open to visitors at this time is the remainder of the roundhouse, consisting of stalls 11-15 and 18-20. These areas are used for storage and for the museum's machine shop, which, until 1997, was located inside an NP baggage cat

Over the years, the MTM has collected a number of steam and diesel locomotives, many of which call Jackson Street home. The most famous of these is former Northern Pacific 4-6-0 No.328, which was rescued from park display in 1976 and restored by volunteers to operable condition in 1981. Normally kept inside the Jackson Street engine house, the No.328 operates for a few months during the summer when it resides in nearby Osceola, Wisconsin, on the MTM's Osceola & St. Croix Valley excursion railroad.

Within the enginehouse is a rare treasure -Minnesota, St. Paul, Rochester & Dubuque Election Traction Company (Dan Patch Electric Lines) No. 100, a 1913 boxcab gas-electric that its builder (GE) claimed to be the first internal-combustion freight locomotive constructed in the United States. Later acquired by the Minneapolis, Anokn & Cayuna Range Railroad, No.100 was repowered in 1957 with a Waukeshn diesel engine. When the MA&CR was acquired by the Great Northern in 1966, No.100, still operable, was donated to the MTM. Over the years, the unit was repainted into its original blue livery, and rebuilt by the museum for excursions with NP 328. No.1.00 operated occasionally into the 1980s, but due to its limited power, has been in storage for the past decade. MTM volunteers successfully returned the unit to service in October 1998, and the No. 100 was viewed by the public for the first time during the grand opening.

One of the MTM's future projects is usually parked near the enginehouse. This is Northern Pacific 4-6-2 No.2156, built by Baldwin in 1909 as power for the North Coast Limited. The Pacific spent many years on display in St. Paul's Como Park before it was removed by the MTM in 1980 for restoration. Unfortunately, after much of the 2156 was dismantled it was discovered that water had somehow entered the high-pressure steam chest in the left cylinder, froze and caused major damage. This problem, however, is not stopping the restoration as volunteers are optimistic that the steam chest can be repaired and that the engine will one day run again.

Further poking around the yard reveals several unique diesels, including Lake Superior Terminal & Transfer NW-2 No.101, which is undergoing restoration; Westinghouse "visibility-cab" switcher B-71, a 300-horsepower ex-Armco boxcab that is awaiting cosmetic work and "Northern Pacific No. 105," an operable SW1200 that is actually LST&T 105 in disguise. A 1929 CB&Q gas-electric doodlebug, No.9735, is currently stored offsite but is slated to enter the museum's shop for a complete rebuilding in the near future.

In service right now as the Jackson Street Roundhouse shop switcher is former Northern States Power No.5, a GE 45-Tonner built in 1951. This little unit was used during the opening weekend to offer short rides on the museum's industrial siding, pulling Rock Island commuter coaches. Most of the attention, however, was centered on the replica of Thomas the Tank Engine, which was coupled onto the opposite end of the train. The Thomas replica will be visiting various tourist railroads throughout the year, and spent the first two weekend of May visiting Jackson Street, to the delight of thousands of children.

You can visit the Jackson Street Roundhouse most weekends. They are located at 193 Pennsylvania Avenue, East St. Paul, Minnesota 55101-4319. Call 651/228-0623 for museum times and fares, or log onto the MTM's excellent website at www.mtmuseum.org for more information. Thanks to Eric Hopp, Mark Engels, and the rest of the volunteers at the MTM for their help with this story.

Great Western No.75

On April 19, 1999, the Heber Valley Railroad became the proud owner of former Great Western No.75, a Baldwin 2-8-0 formerly owned and operated by the late Everett Rohrer. No.75 and its ten-car "movie train," which was included in the purchase, have been seen in many films, including The Professionals, A River Runs Through It, Breakheart Pass and Geronimo. The locomotive and cars will be trucked to Heher City, Utah, from their current home outside of Denver.

The No.75 was built for the Great Western in 1907, the same year as the Heber Valley's other operable steam locomotive, former Union Pacific 2-8-0 No.618 (also a Baldwin product). But No.75, unlike No.618, was built to an earlier design with an unsuperheated boiler, slide valves and Stephenson valve gear. Later modern additions included a power reverse and a complete Pyle-National electrical lighting system, but the locomotive remains coal-fired. Great Western used No.75 primarily to haul loaded sugar beets cars over its 42-mile line out of Loveland, Colorado.

When No.75 was retired in 1965, it was sold to Colorado native Everett Rohrer who founded the GW 75 Corporation to preserve vintage railroad equipment for movie-making purposes. Over the next three decades, Everett acquired a stable of historic rolling stock, including two heavyweight steel Denver & Rio Grande Western coaches, a former Colorado & Southern wooden combine, two baggage cars, a wooden flat car (made to resemble a stock car for Geronizno), a C&S wood caboose and a former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy tender converted for use as a water car. After Rohrer's death, the corporation was taken over by his daughter and son-in-law, Melanie and John Pickar. Said Mr. Pickar, "The 75 has been a close family member for over 30 years. We are very pleased that the Heber Valley Railroac plans to operate the locomotive and cars that the collection will stay pretty much intaci and that we will be able to come to Hebei and ride 'our train' from time to time." As a tribute to the late Rohrer, one of the baggage cars will be converted into a museum to tell the story of No.75's preservation by Everett and subsequent movie career.

No. 75 needs only minor work before it can steam again. According to Craig Drury, the liv's Chief Mechanical Officer, 'The condition of the wheels, spring hangers, pins and other running gear is remarkable for an engine this age. It's indicative of the care this engine has received. The locomotive will be a real asset to the Heber Valley Railroad." Road Foreman of Engines John Rimmasch added, "With the addition of the 75, we can keep a steam locomotive in service year-round. Before, it was difficult to run steam in the wintertime because that's when we usually do our work on 618." He added, "I hope we have 75 ready to go by the end of the 1999 season. At that time we could take 618 out of service for some needed work and let the 75 handle the regular [fall and winter] trains."

The Heber Valley plans to keep No. 75 available for movie assignments. Rohrer amassed a sizable collection of fake smokestacks, headlights and vintage parts that can be used to "backdate" the engine for film purposes. The Heber Valley acquired most of these props with the engine, so modification for movie work should be relatively easy. Motion picture companies have already discovered the diverse scenery at Heber, and during the last five years No.618 has starred in three made-for-TV movies and television episodes of Touched by an Angel and Promised Land. With the availability of the much older-looking No.75, movie makers looking for vintage steam-era equipment should flock to the Heber Valley.

For more information on No.75, and to keep updated on its progress, you can visit the HV's website at www.hebervalleyrr.org. For information on train excursions, you can write the railroad at P.O. Box 609, Heber City, Utah 84023 or call 435/654-5601. Thanks to John Rimmasch, Ken McConnell, and Craig Lacey for the news.

South Station's Centennial

A new plaque honoring the centennial of Boston's famed (and much-modified) South Station was unveiled on April 23, 1999. The plaque is 54 inches high and 36 inches wide, and has been placed in the station where it will be seen by most of the 100,000 people that walk through the station's concourse each day. The station's official centennial celebration was held on January 19, 1999.

South Station will soon be the terminus For Amtrak's new Acela high-speed trains running from Washington through New York to Boston. The electrification of the line }om New Haven, Connecticut, to Boston thould he completed by the end of the year md the first high-speed trains should enter South Station before New Year's Day. One of Amtrak's most notable achievements in its l7-year history is the restoration of stations along the Northeast Corridor. Union Station n Washington and South Station are inchors at either end of a line that now sees çrand stations in Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Newark and New Haven, plus a new station in Providence and a soon-to-be-relocated Penn Station in New York.

 

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